Sometimes getting embarrassed is just what the doctor ordered. After getting smoked by the Bucks on Saturday night, the Sacramento Kings looked like a completely different team in Toronto. Maybe they gleaned something from the 26-point loss in Milwaukee. Or maybe they were just tired of losing.
Whatever switch was hit, the Kings came out and stunned the Raptors, beating the home team 96-91 before boarding a flight and heading back to the friendly confines of the Golden 1 Center.
“We turned a page on last night’s game, we got better from that,” veteran Rudy Gay said following the Kings’ big win. “We came out here today and competed.”
Gay missed the Bucks game with a rib cartilage injury and was listed as doubtful to start Sunday morning. But he decided to test how he felt in pregame and gave coach Dave Joerger a tremendous 35 minutes of court time.
“I did not expect him to play and he strapped them up and made some big shots down the stretch,” Joerger said during his postgame scrum.
The 30-year-old wing has been tremendous early in the season for Sacramento and Sunday was no different. He finished the night with 23 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that gave the Kings a fighting chance.
“We played with energy,” Gay said. “Watching last night I didn’t see that at all. I just wanted to make an effort today to try and use my energy as much as I could. We’re a much better team when we play with passion.”
“I feel a lot better now that we won,” Gay added with a smile.
It was a team effort with four players scoring in double-figures and another two finishing the night with eight points. But where the Kings really excelled was on the defensive end where they held a very good Raptors team to just 35.7 percent from the field and outrebounded the home team 47-43.
“You’ve got to want to rebound,” 36-year-old Matt Barnes said.
Cousins led the way with 14 boards, but Barnes chipped in 10, Kosta Koufos added six and both Gay and Arron Afflalo finished with five apiece.
Sacramento’s early season schedule has been brutal. Their eight games in 12 nights, including six on the road, is tops in the league. And all of those contests without their starting point guard Darren Collison who returns to action Tuesday after serving his eight-game league mandated suspension.
“Our mindset is just to keep coming after them and I’m really proud of our guys,” said Joerger. “It’s been a tough road trip and it feels good to finish with a win.”
Joerger is still searching for the right combination of players. Willie Cauley-Stein and Ben McLemore drew the short straw against the Raptors, both sitting out as healthy scratches. Omri Casspi played just nine minutes and veteran Jordan Farmar logged 10 minutes as Joerger went to a tight nine man rotation.
“We’ve got some good players on this team,” Gay said. “Everybody’s capable of having big nights. That’s another thing we have to do. We have to spread the ball out and give everybody a chance.”
Arron Afflalo played a solid 36 minutes at the two, scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He was one of a small group of players that was asked to guard high-scoring DeMar DeRozan, who was limited to just 23 points on 7-of-20 shooting after coming in averaging nearly 36 per night.
Cousins struggled from the field, but still managed to 22 points on 7-of-21 shooting. Koufos added 13 points, which is a high for the nine-year vet this season. It was a collective effort for a group that looked absolutely defeated less than 24 hours earlier.
“We can’t put our heads down and that’s kind of what’s happened on the trip,” Joerger explained. “We’ve taken a couple of hits and we’ve struggled to come down and execute and get a shot we want or we turn it over and heads get down. Guys made some shots, we kept battling and we were rewarded in the end.”
The Kings don’t have time to celebrate the win. They boarded a plane for Sacramento following the game where they will take on the Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night, followed by a matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
After a rough trip, they now stand at 3-5 on the season. It wasn’t exactly a statement game, but certainly one the team can try to build off of.
“I think it just shows what we’re capable of,” Matt Barnes said. “Out of all the team’s we beat the best team after a back-to-back. We’ve just got to stick together and we’re going to start gelling and we’re going to be a problem.”