TORONTO — As good as the Toronto Raptors are — and make no mistake, this team is very good — it’s performances like Sunday’s against the Sacramento Kings that will always give even the most glass-half-full optimists pause and add more fuel to the naysayers’ ever-burning bonfire.
Toronto looks like everything that should garner more high-profile U.S national attention. This is a team that features two all-stars and, coming into Sunday’s game, was the third best team in the league according to net rating (just behind the likes of championship-favourites Golden State and Houston).
So they’re awesome, right?
Well, when you allow a lottery-bound Kings club to hang 63 points on you while shooting 61.9 per cent from the field at halftime it’s hard to really justify that statement with any sort of emphatic fervour.
Despite those alarming numbers, the Raptors did get their act together in the third quarter and clamped down on the Kings, holding them to 14 points in the frame, riding the momentum of a 12-4 run to end the third to a convincing 108-93 victory.
“We picked it up aggressively — very aggressively,” said DeMar DeRozan, who finished with a game-high 21 points, of the Raptors’ second-half turnaround. “Especially the bench. I think I was in there with a couple of guys off the bench and they came in with high energy, got their hands on the basketball, got out in transition.”
The second unit was indeed key on Sunday for Toronto’s fortunes as the combination of Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet helped helped the Raptors hold Sacramento to just 30.8 per cent shooting in the entire second half.
“I just think we got more locked into the game plan, understanding what they were trying to do,” Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry said. “We just did a better job of being focused on what we needed to do, changed a few things at the half and fixed the coverages a little.”