SACRAMENTO KINGS

Preview: Kings seek 40th win against depleted Raptors

Mar 20, 2024, 8:50 AM | Updated: 9:08 am

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 29: De'Aaron Fox #5 and Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kin...

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Throughout the 2023-24 regular season, the Sacramento Kings have struggled to put away shorthanded opponents.

Two days ago, it took a late charge in the fourth quarter and a considerable overtime period for Sacramento to outlast a Memphis Grizzlies squad that entered play without star Ja Morant and several other members of its rotation.

With less than one month remaining before the NBA Play-In Tournament gets underway, the Kings (39-28) currently hold the sixth and final spot in the Western Conference standings as four teams beneath them continue to keep pace in the rearview mirror.

Sacramento must handle business against sub-500 opponents–especially shorthanded teams–like the Grizzlies and Wednesday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors (23-45) down the final stretch to pad their place in the standings.

The Raptors, who have lost seven straight games and nine of their past ten contests, will play without four of their five starters, putting the Kings in another position to prove themselves against a struggling and depleted roster.

Sacramento is playing its second of three-straight games against sub-500 teams, as they will follow up Monday’s game against Memphis with a back-to-back against Toronto and Washington (11-58).

Can the Kings take advantage of their final favorable stretch of the regular season before setting their sights on facing teams around them in the playoff race?

Sacramento Kings vs. Toronto Raptors Game Info

When: 4:30 PM PST

Where: Scotiabank Arena  – Toronto, ON

TV: NBC Sports California

Radio: Sactown Sports 1140 AM – Coverage starts at 3:00 PM on Game Night

Line: Kings -11.5, O/U 233.5

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Raptors coverage, beginning at 3:00 PM PST on Game Night before a 4:30 PM PST tip-off from Toronto.

A New-Look Starting Five

With Kevin Huerter’s return to action timetable currently unclear after the guard suffered a left shoulder dislocation during Monday’s win, Sacramento will have a new starting five on Wednesday against the Raptors.

Following Huerter’s exit during the game’s opening minutes, head coach Mike Brown called on Keon Ellis to fill in for the remainder of the night–a move that paid off for the Kings.

Ellis showcased his defensive prowess as the second-year guard became the first guard in the Sacramento era (1985-present) to block five shots, with four of those swats coming against high-scoring Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane.

Following the win, Brown made it clear that Ellis would be in line to fill in for Huerter as the team continued to evaluate the severity of the injury and establish a timetable for his return.

“We started Keon in the second half, and he’ll continue to start until Kevin gets back and/or when we want to go in another direction,” Brown said on Monday when asked about the possibility of Ellis moving into the starting lineup.

Sacramento has sorely lacked defensive impact this season, but Ellis’s emergence has come at an ideal time as the Western Conference playoff race heats up.

Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Devine recently highlighted that the Kings have outscored opponents by 56 points in 193 minutes with Ellis on the floor since the All-Star break, which is the highest plus-minus on the team.

When Ellis is on the floor, Sacramento’s defense has a much different look–one that could benefit the team as they continue to push for the postseason.

Bounce Back From 3

Following an 11-game stretch during which the Kings shot 37 percent from three-point range as a team, Sacramento has gone cold over the past two games.

The Kings followed up a 27 percent showing from deep against the Knicks by shooting just 31 percent against Memphis, meaning that Sacramento is due to bounce back. A matchup against a poor Toronto three-point defense could be just what the doctor ordered, as the Raptors currently hold the fifth-worst perimeter defense in the NBA (37.6%).

When the triples fall for the Kings, wins usually follow, as Sacramento holds a 29-9 (.763) record when shooting 35 percent or higher from downtown.

Players like Keegan Murray (25% from 3PT over his past eight games) and Harrison Barnes (27% over the past two games) are candidates for bounce-back performances, but Sacramento could have another player emerge as a three-point threat on Wednesday: reigning EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov.

After missing 16 games due to a right ankle sprain, Vezenkov has been upgraded to questionable as the forward nears a return to action.

While it’s yet to be confirmed if the 28-year-old will suit up against the Raptors, a return would benefit a rotation currently down two key pieces (Huerter and Trey Lyles).

Over 35 appearances this season, Vezenkov has shot 38 percent from three-point range on 2.9 attempts per game.

Notes

  • The Kings haven’t swept a season series against the Raptors since the 2016-17 season.
  • Last season, Sacramento secured its 40th win after 66 games (40-26). Tonight, the Kings will play game number 68.
  • With another double-double on Wednesday, Domantas Sabonis would tie Moses Malone (51 games) for the third-longest streak since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976-77.

Kings vs. Raptors Injury Report

Sacramento

  • Sasha Vezenkov – QUESTIONABLE (right ankle sprain)
  • Kevin Huerter – OUT (left shoulder dislocation)
  • Trey Lyles – OUT (left knee MCL sprain)
  • Jordan Ford – OUT (G-League)
  • Mason Jones – OUT (G-League)

Toronto

  • Scottie Barnes – OUT (left hand fracture)
  • Immanuel Quickley – OUT (personal)
  • RJ Barrett – OUT (personal)
  • Jakob Poeltl – OUT (torn ligament, left hand)
  • Chris Boucher – OUT (MCL partial tear)
  • D.J. Carton – OUT (right ankle sprain)

Upcoming Schedule

  • Wednesday, March 20th – Sacramento Kings @ Toronto Raptors – 4:30 PM PST
  • Thursday, March 21st – Sacramento Kings @ Washington Wizards – 4:00 PM PST
  • Saturday, March 23rd – Sacramento Kings @ Orlando Magic – 4:00 PM PST
  • Monday, March 25th – Sacramento Kings vs. Philadelphia 76ers – 7:00 PM PST
  • Tuesday, March 26th – Sacramento Kings vs. Dallas Mavericks – 7:00 PM PST
  • Friday, March 29th – Sacramento Kings vs. Dallas Mavericks – 7:00 PM PST

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