There were some key storylines heading into the Sacramento Kings matchup with the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver, paying a visit to check on Kings arena progress, was greeted by a sellout Sleep Train Arena crowd. On the floor, it marked the return of four former Kings and a chance for Rudy Gay to play his former mates. For three quarters, the Kings matched the intensity of the crowd. In the fourth quarter, things got dicey. But a couple weeks after being burned by a controversial perimeter call, Sacramento benefited from a questionable whistle Wednesday. That, combined with some key late game plays, helped the Kings emerge with a 109-101 victory.
36 MINUTES OF EFFICIENCY – The Kings played excellent basketball on both ends of the floor for the better part of three quarters. Defensively, Sacramento was focused. It started on the ball with Isaiah Thomas hounding Kyle Lowry and spread to the paint, where the Kings dominated Toronto. Raptors on the perimeter were contested and the Kings crashed the boards. Offensively, DeMarcus Cousins (38 MIN, 25 PTS, 8-19 FG, 9-14 FT, 10 REB, 4 AST, 2 BLK, 1 STL, 2 TO) was too much for Toronto to handle. His ability to carve out space and finish at the rim kept the Kings running smoothly. Thomas (38 MIN, 23 PTS, 4-12 FG, 15-16 FT, 5 AST, 3 REB, 2 STL, 3 TO) chipped in with efficient play at the point guard spot, and Marcus Thornton (16 MIN, 12 PTS, 4-9 FG, 2-4 3FG) and Rudy Gay contributed timely baskets. The Kings led by 20 points after three quarters.
FOURTH QUARTER FRENZY – Sacramento failed to keep the pressure on in the fourth quarter, and the Raptors took full advantage. Defensive breakdowns became commonplace, with Ben McLemore drawing criticism for continually leaving Steve Novak open for threes. The Kings started missing open shots, and suddenly it appeared the Raptors might ride the wave of momentum all the way to a victory. McLemore (24 MIN, 6 PTS, 2-5 FG, 3 REB, 2 STL) redeemed himself with a terrific offensive rebound that required a relentless pursuit of the ball. On the ensuing Raptors possession with Toronton down six, Kyle Lowry dropped a three-ball and drew the whistle, but the Raptors guard was called for kicking his leg out. There was never a great view inside the arena, but by all accounts, the call was terrible. Instead of a one-possession game, the Kings took over and iced the game at the line. A major call in the Kings favor, and one that secured a game that had become way too close for comfort.
GAY’S REDEMPTION ATTEMPT – As a Kings fan, you had to be hoping Rudy Gay would show well against his former team, especially considering how happy Toronto was to unload him. And while Gay (43 MIN, 24 PTS, 7-17 FG, 10-11 FT, 10 REB, 3 AST, 4 STL, 1 BLK, 3 TO) finished with an impressive line, he looked a little out of sync early, perhaps pressing too hard to produce. He missed his first four shots, had some ugly turnovers on impossible passes and looked lazy on defense. Things got progressively better for Gay as the game moved along. He settled into a comfort level, hit some of his patented short jumpers and attacked the basket to draw fouls. The victory was probably all the revenge Gay needed, but his solid play down the stretch had to feel good.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes, John Salmons and Greivis Vasquez were the first four Raptors off the bench, and in true Sacramento fashion, all received a warm reception from the crowd. Patterson was highly effective, showing the shooting touch that had Kings fans excited last season. Coach Michael Malone had a warm embrace for each guy, which speaks to the coach’s character. Well respected … Thornton’s night ended early when he was undercut under the basket and landed hard on his hip and knee. The scary fall hopefully looked worse than it was, as x-rays were negative … The loss of Thornton prompted Malone to play small down the stretch with Jimmer Fredette and McLemore joining Isaiah on the floor. Fredette (15 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-5 FG, 1 STL, 1 TO) had a quiet night … Derrick Williams sat the game out. The official word was a left foot strain, but you’ve got to at least wonder if it was a consequence of his botched showboat dunk attempt against Chicago.