Philosopher George Santayana knew what he was talking about when he said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. That lesson seemed to be lost on both Toronto Raptors (17-12) and their star point guard Kyle Lowry, both of whom were undone by wrong-headed bad habits that manifested themselves long before Sunday’s deflating 104-94 home loss to the Sacramento Kings.
For the Raptors, Sunday provided another stern reminder of the dangers of starting slow. By coming out of the gates flat, they enabled Sacramento to score 17 of the game’s first 19 points and open up a lead as big as 22 points without ever owning an advantage of their own. The Kings made six of their first eight three-pointers and saw Omri Casspi hit double digits in scoring before the Raptors did. The hosts enjoyed their customary rally, as they seem to have come to expect amidst a number of lackluster starts, pulling to within four points on a couple of occasions, but never drawing closer.
For Lowry, Sunday represented another instance of losing his head in his reaction to an official. With 7:22 left in the third, Lowry engaged in a vocal protest towards official Scott Wall after being called for a foul. After being assessed a first tech, he was allowed to continue venting his frustrations – until Wall decided he’d heard enough and sent the point guard to the showers with his second technical. Without Lowry, Cory Joseph failed to pick up the offensive slack (four points on 2-7 shooting) and the Raps seemed to wind up one offensive weapon short.
The unusual suspects
DeMar DeRozan unsurprisingly led the way for Toronto with 28 points on 10-24 shooting, his sixth outing of 25+ points in the team’s last seven games. But he did so with a rather different supporting offensive cast in tow. With Lowry getting an early hook and coach Dwane Casey desperately tinkering with lineup combinations that might produce a spark, it opened the door for fringe contributors like James Johnson (14 points on 7-11 shooting), Patrick Patterson (18 points on 6-12 shooting) and Terrence Ross (13 points on 5-14 shooting) to step forward.
Lowry the hothead
While the ejection seemed heavy-handed and unnecessary on the part of the officiating crew, it did highlight an increasingly problematic trend from the Raps’ 29-year-old franchise floor general. His two techs on Sunday now give him five over his past five games, which not only paints the picture of a player who can’t keep his composure but also enhances a reputation as a whiner that Lowry would just as soon like to avoid. On the season, he’s tied for the league lead with seven, the same number as Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s not a good sign when it is DeMarcus Cousins’ and Rajon Rondo’s noggins that are the cooler heads to prevail in the Raps/Kings game.
Before Lowry even left Sunday’s game, the Raps were having trouble creating anything on the offensive end. They shot just 37.2% (35-94) from the floor and finished with as many assists (12) as turnovers. While Sacramento scored 52 points in the paint and got 49 points from their starting forward trio of Cousins, Omri Casspi and Rudy Gay, Toronto failed to get their starting frontcourt of Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo engaged (four points on 1-13 shooting), managing just 40 points inside. Even worse, Rajon Rondo had more assists (13) than the Raptors, spreading the ball around with six Kings taking seven shots or more.
The Nav Bhatia-sponsored Bollywood Day at the Hershey Centre for Saturday’s tilt between the Delaware 87’ers and the 905 turned into the Norm Powell Show. Designated alongside Anthony Bennett, Powell poured in 30 points on 12-18 shooting as the unmistakable star of a 105-94 win. Although Bruno Caboclo struggled (six points on 2-11 shooting) and fan favourite Sim Bhullar played just two minutes, Powell’s effort and Bennett’s 13-point showing gave fans plenty to cheer for.
If the Kings aren’t the most hated team in the NBA right now, it’s only because most NBA followers find them too laughable to hate. Under the watchful eye of in-over-his-head owner Vivek Ranadive and inexperienced GM Vlade Divac, Sacramento boasts a brooding hothead in Cousins and an apparently homophobic Rajon Rondo on a team that’s already 15 games back in their division.
The Dallas Mavericks come to town on Tuesday for the Raptors’ last game before Christmas (7:30pm, TSN1). Will we get the good Mavs of wins over the Clippers, Wizards and Grizzlies, or the bad Dallas that is 4-5 against the East and lost to the Raps in early November.
Prediction: Raps 102, Mavs 96 (record this season: 13-15)