Press Box Report: Kings 113, Raptors 106

by James Ham & Rui Thomas

Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone speaks with Darren Collison. (Photo: Kimani David)

Nik Stauskas (and the new arena floor design) made a strong first impression as the Sacramento Kings tamed the Toronto Raptors 113-106 in the preseason home opener. The rookie shot 5-of-5, including a four-point play before missing his first basket in the fourth quarter. He finished with 13 points.

“Even when Nik doesn’t have it, he has the intelligence and feel for the game to make a play for someone else,” stated head coach Michael Malone. “Very rarely does he force a bad shot.”

Kings fans also saw Ramon Sessions and Darren Collison in home uniforms for the first time. Ball movement was commonplace, though Sacramento’s backcourt surrendered 48 total points to Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

Sacramento held a 56-50 lead at half in part to Jason Thompson and Omri Casspi’s aggressive efforts. Thompson played center and followed up his shots en route to an eight-point, seven-rebound half while Casspi drew eight free throws and made six by the break. Toronto kept pace through two quarters thanks to sharp shooting from deep, 5-of-12 behind the arc.

In the third, DeMarcus Cousins repeatedly attacked the basket to earn 13 of his 19 points in the third quarter which helped spur a 17-6 run. The Kings’ commitment to bang down low resulted in 20 second chance points and 50 free throw attempts.

“Then we missed 15 free throws, so we need to go back to free-throw school and knock those down,” added Malone.

Six Kings reached double-digit points while Thompson led the team with nine rebounds. Sacramento lost 20 turnovers and Derrick Williams, Sim Bhullar, Deonte Burton, Eric Moreland and David Wear recorded DNPs.

The Kings will play their next contest Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz arena in Shanghai, China versus the Brooklyn Nets.

Notes and Analysis

  • After a foul plagued first half, DeMarcus Cousins got hot in after the break.  Toronto had no answer for the Sacramento Kings center who scored 13 of his 19 points in the third quarter before sitting out the fourth.  Cousins finished with only four rebounds and picked up a questionable technical foul, but he gave a solid, if not spectacular 18-minute performance for coach Malone.
  • Nik Stauskas celebrated his 21st birthday in style, scoring 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting.  The rookie out of Michigan struggled on the defensive end and he has to find a way to better fill up the stat sheet, but this was another solid step in his progression.  Ben McLemore came off the bench to provide solid defense and kicked in 12 points in 25 minutes.
  • Omri Casspi made an immediate impact in the first half, scoring 10 points of his 15 points off the Kings bench before intermission.  Casspi ran the floor, rebounded and even handed out a pair of assists in his 25 minutes.  It looks like Derrick Williams is an a battle for minutes with Casspi behind Rudy Gay.
  • With Cousins sitting out with foul trouble in the first half, Jason Thompson picked up the slack and then some.  Thompson has been the star of camp and in the first two preseason games, the longest tenured King has turned heads.  He dropped in 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 26 minutes.
  • Rudy Gay was quiet for the second straight game, finishing with nine points, three assists and two rebounds in 21 minutes.  After playing with Team USA through the summer, it appears that the Kings are letting their star forward rest up early in preseason.
  • Ramon Sessions got the start tonight over Darren Collison.  The veteran combo-guard finished with six points and six assists, but like Stauskas, he struggled on the defensive end.  Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to score 48 points on 18-of-29 shooting in just 48 total minutes.  That’s not going to cut it, even in preseason.  Collison, meanwhile, came off the bench to add 10 points and five assists in 25 minutes.
  • We’re not sure who will start at power forward when the season opens later this month, but Carl Landry appears to have cemented himself as the first big off the bench.  Landry finished with seven points and eight rebounds in 14 minutes as he tries to move past a disastrous 2013-14 season.
  • Michael Malone went small to start the fourth quarter, using a lineup of Collison, McLemore, Stauskas, Casspi and Thompson/Landry.  The ball movement was exceptional.  Almost too good.  This is the most versatile roster the we have seen in Sacramento in some time.
  • Stat of the Night: The Kings shot 55.2 percent from the field and outscored the Raptors 56-36 in the paint.

Quote of the Game

Michael Malone on the Kings’ positives

“We got stops, created tempo, and we had some great, great possessions tonight with ball movement and making that extra pass. We did the whole ‘pass up a good shot to get a great shot’ thing. That’s what we’ve been working on.”

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