Raptors Ready For A Date With Royalty

A little later than usual, but here’s the “wrapping up a back-to-back-to-back edition” of what we’re watching during tonight’s Raptors-Kings matchup at ACC (7 PM, Sportsnet, FAN590, GET TICKETS).

Projected Starters
TOR –
Jose Calderon (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Rasual Butler (F),  Andrea Bargnani (F), Amir Johnson (C).
SAC –
Tyreke Evans (G), Jimmer Fredette (G), John Salmons (G-F), JJ Hickson (F), DeMarcus Cousins (C).

Key Injuries
TOR
– Jerryd Bayless (sprained left ankle) – day-to-day,  Linas Kleiza (right knee surgery) – day-to-day, Aaron Gray (ablation procedure) – OUT
SAC – 
Marcus Thornton (left thigh contusion) – questionable, Chuck Hayes (dislocated left shoulder) -out

Shaking Off Tuesday: Perhaps the best thing about the Raptors current schedule (and there’s not a lot to choose from) is the fact that they can scrub last night’s dismal effort from their memory banks and move on to tonight’s matchup with Sacramento.

There also may not be a more ideal opponent than the Kings at ACC, where the Raptors have won the last six meetings. Sacramento also comes into this one winless on the road so far this season, following a 112-85 drubbing at the hands of the red-hot Sixers last night.

But if there’s been one consistency for the Raptors during this inconsistent season, it’s that their margin for error in every game is microscopic. They can ill afford to rest or rely on any statistic or trend versus an opponent.

 Close The Bakery: The Raptors are no doubt fatigued, but they were clearly compounding the issue with unforced turnovers in Washington.

Toronto coughed it up an unacceptable 23 times on Tuesday and the trickle down effect was tremendous. The Raptors found themselves in a track meet and were outscored 18-6 in fast break points and 54-28 in the paint as a result. For a team that’s 26th in the league in pace, down a handful of bodies and in the middle of a grueling stretch, stepping on the gas for the Wizards was not the way they want to go.

When Raptors can cut down on unforced errors and are able to establish themselves defensively, they’ve proven they can hang with a lot of teams. Look for that to get cleaned up tonight.

Getting DeRozan On Track: The Raptors have to start getting more production on the wings overall tonight and chief among those players is DeMar DeRozan. The third-year guard has struggled mightily in four games since exploding for 25 points against the Cavs, shooting just 12-for-46 with just nine trips to the line over that span. According to Casey, his offensive struggles are carrying over to the defensive end of the floor.

No one is more aware of those struggles than DeRozan himself and admitted as much last night.

“I just have to play better; it’s as simple as that. I have to step up and be more consistent in order to help this team win.”

He’s seen some limited success in the post, but it’s the jumper that’s deserted him of late. Look for DeRozan to take a more aggressive approach in terms of going to the rack and getting rewarded with high percentage buckets or trips to the stripe.

Speaking On Softness: Perhaps not surprisingly, there were many Raptors all that interested in saying much after a disheartening loss and a flight back to T.O. imminent.

But a visibly rankled Anderea Bargnani was willing to talk and called the Raptors’ play “mentally soft”. In previous seasons, Bargnani would have run the risk of seeming mighty hypocritical with that kind of critique. Now? The team’s leader and most consistent performer this season was spot on.

There’s little joy derived from a loss like last night. But it’s encouraging to see Bargnani being the man for the Raptors on the court and showing some growth as a leader in the locker room. Should be interesting to see if his words help light a fire under his teammates tonight.

 

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