After a win Monday over the Clippers on a night when Jake Voskuhl looks more and more like Bill Laimbeer knocking Zach Randolph to the ground then leave the game, the Raptors went into Sacramento to play the Kings Boxing Day looking to keep the little momentum of this victory alive. Monday night Chris Bosh was the key to the win scoring 18 of his 31 points in the 4th quarter after Randolph left with 19 points. Eric Gordon added 19 and Baron Davis 16 for the Clippers who had no response to Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal who scored 23 and added 9 rebounds. The Clippers were short benched with Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman both out leaving Al Thornton and Brian Skinner to carry the bulk of the work as they used an 8 man rotation. Jamario Moon continued his rebounding work grabbing 8 boards while Jose Calderon had 8 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds to lead the offense. The strength of the front line was evident as the Raptors ended the game + 10 in total rebounds as well as + 8 in points in the paint.
Friday night in Sacramento where they had lost 10 straight and were 1 – 11 over all, the Raptors started the game with the ball going inside to a hungry Jermaine O’Neal and the ball stayed there all night. Led by Brad Miller and rookie Spencer Hawes as well as 3rd year rising star Francisco Garcia from one of my favorite cities, Santo Domingo, this Kings team was not able to contain the front line of Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, but with shooters such as Bobby Jackson and John Salmons who score 17 and 20 from the perimeter, the Raptors seemed very comfortable at both ends of the floor. Jay Triano has this team focused on protecting the paint and utilizing the interior defense that our 3 bigs as well as Kris Humphries have been bringing the past week. In 6 minutes of play in the 4th quarter, Humphries was able to score 2 points, but grabbed 5 rebounds and 1 put back dunk that seemed to charge the Raptors and end a small run the Kings were starting. With a 4 point lead at the end of 3, Jay left in Will Solomon, Joey Graham, Kris Humphries and Anthony Parker with Andrea Bargnani.
They were able to keep the Kings off the boards and had grown the lead to as much as 9 before the starters returned. With seven solid minutes from the guys off the bench, who seemed to work hard on the defensive end, and were able to score enough to keep the Raptors ahead. Andrea Bargnani played one of his best games in the past month as he looked determined to play some power ball inside then stepping outside to drain 3’s keeping the Kings off-balance and unable to keep him from scoring. He scored 14 points off the bench and he seemed to work well off the bench at either of the forward positions. With Chris Bosh in foul trouble early,
Jermaine O’Neal was the go to guy inside for most of the night. Chris Bosh ended the night with 7 rebounds and 13 points. The other starters responded to the energy that Jermaine seemed to have and pushed the tempo a bit more than normal. Jamario Moon was perhaps the only real mystery Friday as he had only 4 points and 4 rebounds, but seemed to be around the ball all night closing guys out and making the Kings take one more pass. Jason Kapono created havoc with the Kings defense as he was hitting shots off of screens and spread the floor with his movement effectively making the Kings pick him or Jermaine O’Neal all night. His 16 points 3 rebounds and 4 assists were very much an indication of how efficiently the Raptors ball movement was Friday night. Jose Calderon had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists and there are not many nights that will happen, but the ball was moved very well by everyone as they all seemed to look for that one more pass to the better shot. The Raptors took only 69 shots from the floor, but when you shoot 55% as a team, the game becomes very simple. The main reason for that number was the star of the game Jermaine O’Neal who exploded for his best game as a Raptors player scoring 36 points and adding 9 rebounds and 2 assists to the mix. He was 15 – 19 from the floor and 6 – 8 from the free throw line as the Kings had no answer to this inside pounding. Brad Miller scored 20, but was relegated to hitting 15 – 20 footers and was not much help on defense as Jermaine and Chris just kept attacking the rim and found little resistance.
Overall, this game was played very well by the Raptors who used solid defense to fuel the offense. They seem quite happy watching teams try to beat them from the outside and the Kings got the bulk of their scoring from guards John Salmons and Bobby Jackson mainly from long range as they score 24 points from beyond the arc, but only 24 in the paint as the Raptors were +16 inside. Though the Raptors were -4 on the offensive glass, they were +5 in second chance points so they were efficient when they got the ball back. One of the main reasons that this game was even close to begin with was the 13 first half turnovers committed by the Raptors. In the second half, they had on 3 and were much better at protecting the ball and took control of the game in the 3rd quarter and maintained the lead down the stretch with good decisions on offense. Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal combined for 64 of the 107 points. That has to be a good sign for this team to build on. Tonight we move to Portland to take on Steve Blake, Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden and the Trail Blazers before Monday’s game against the Warriors. I hope to see a solid team effort again tonight and perhaps 2 more wins to end the road trip before the new year.