Raptors Surpass the Kings in Defense, Regaining Their Form from Last Year

January 26, 2023

The Toronto Raptors have practiced less hard this season in years.


Almost every free day has been packed this season with some scheduled workouts. They’ve tried almost everything to get out of this sprawling ghetto. They attempted something different on Tuesday. The Raptors gathered for a “closed-door” film session to review the video before heading on a seven-game, 13-day West Coast road trip. It wasn’t a film of any of Toronto’s constant defensive blunders this season. Instead, the Raptors reflected on what made them so remarkable last season.


Following the meeting, Thaddeus Young observed, “It demonstrated we were always in prepared, focus-mode, effort mode, and always willing to make the next play.” We must resume doing that, she said.


The Raptors defeated the Sacramento Kings 113-95 on Wednesday night by returning to their defensive-first identity. They did this by shutting down the league’s most potent attack.


Toronto looked connected on defense on Wednesday. They were producing plays that were lacking during the season, which must be exasperating for the organization’s decision-makers.


To start the second half, Scottie Barnes pickpocketed Harrison Barnes, which caused Pascal Siakam to soar for a changeover bucket at the opposite end. The Raptors went on a 20-4 run because the defense consistently produced tremendous attacking opportunities for Toronto. The third quarter saw Siakam score 14 of his team-high 26 points.


Domantas Sabonis struggled against Toronto’s overly aggressive defense, unlike so many other players this season, misplacing the ball a career-high nine times on Wednesday night. Midway in the third quarter, when a Siakam step-back jumper gave the Raptors a 20-point advantage, Fred VanVleet twice stripped Siakam in the paint while jarring the ball loose with his unwelcome hands.


With seven straight points to start the fourth quarter and 17 points for the night, Precious Achiuwa shut the door on the Kings. With two minutes left in regulation, the Kings replaced their starters after VanVleet had stripped De’Aaron Fox late in the fourth quarter. Siakam then sealed the victory with a basket.


When Toronto’s offense went nearly four minutes without scoring in the first quarter, the defense kept the Raptors in the game. Barnes eventually broke the skid by slamming a floater out of balance into the drive. After that, Fred VanVleet made a pair of difficult jumpers to keep Toronto within striking distance.


The Raptors’ second unit gave the starters eight critical minutes in the second quarter, much like it did against the Knicks on Sunday. Chris Boucher made a crucial rotation to start the game by slipping into the paint to block Chimezie Metu massively. Following that, he made two three-pointers to start the second quarter. He closed the quarter with 14 of his 16 points when Barnes found him in the paint on a no-look left-handed dish out of a pick-and-roll.


In contrast, Toronto’s Barnes excelled as the team’s starting point guard in the first half, giving VanVleet more time to recover. The sophomore, who had trouble handling the ball early in the season before the Raptors moved him to a more prominent center position, has made significant progress. There is a perfect likelihood that Barnes’ point guard role will expand as the season goes on because changes are probably coming, and Toronto’s two guards are the most likely trade prospects.

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