The game marked the return of Rudy Gay, but the night belonged to the Toronto Raptors.
Terrence Ross scored 18 points to lead the Raptors to a 99-87 victory over Sacramento on Friday, the Kings’ first visit since the mammoth seven-player deal in December that sent Gay to the west coast.
A month after the Kings manhandled Toronto in Sacramento, the Raptors turned the tables on their visitors, putting their personal feelings aside and showing just how much they’ve improved since the roster remake.
“We have to treat them like an enemy rather than a friend because we all have friends on that team,” said Patrick Patterson, one of the four players who came to Toronto in the deal. “Going into this game we have to treat it like they’re the enemy, as if they’re a villain and we’re a superhero pretty much. We can’t be friendly with them.”
Patterson and DeMar DeRozan scored 15 points apiece, while Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points and Amir Johnson had nine rebounds to go with nine points for the Raptors (34-26), who’ve won eight of their last 10 games.
DeMarcus Cousins topped Sacramento (22-40) with 24 points, while Gay had 15.
The Raptors led for all but the game’s opening two minutes and pulled away in the third quarter to take an 80-63 advantage into the fourth.
Toronto stretched its lead to as much as 23 points in the fourth. The Kings would cut that to 10 points on a Ben McLemore three-pointer with a minute to go that made the game seem closer than it was.
The night marked Gay’s first trip back to Toronto since Raptors GM Masai Ujiri shipped him, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to Sacramento for Greivis Vasquez, Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes on Dec. 9, just 18 games into the season.
The first time the teams played last month in Sacramento — a 109-101 Kings win that saw Sacramento lead by 20 going into the fourth — was far too friendly for coach Dwane Casey’s liking.
“I have friends who’ve been in this league 20-plus years, but I see them in the summertime,” the Raptors coach said. “Guys were very professional, workmanlike, not disrespecting their friends on the other team but knowing we had a job to do when you walk out between those lines.
“After the game is over you can shake hands, hug, kiss, whatever you want to do. But we have to have that razor-like focus every time we walk on the floor.”
Salmons said the difference Friday was “We let go of the personal stuff.
“We said we were doing that the first game, but clearly we didn’t, so it was time to just let it go and just play basketball. It was more professional this time around.”
The Raptors were 6-12 when Ujiri rewrote his roster in December. Toronto has gone 28-14 since to sit third in the Eastern Conference.
Gay, who shot 5-for-13 on the night, wasn’t a huge factor in the game. He received a smattering of boos during the Kings’ introductions, and again when he had Sacramento’s first basket, but the level of hostility was nothing like that unleashed on former Raptors Vince Carter or even Andrea Bargnani when they play in Toronto.
The loudest jeers — and cheers — of the night came when Gay threw down a huge one-handed dunk but was called for travelling.
“Honestly I didn’t even pay attention to it,” Gay said. “Boo or cheer, either way I have to go out and do my job.”
Of the former Kings, Patterson had the strongest night against his former team, scoring on an array of shots, including a pretty put-back basket and huge alley-oop dunk in the fourth quarter that brought the crowd of 18,658 to its feet. He was 3-for-4 from three-point range.
Casey called Patterson a “godsend” in stretching the floor.
“Not only that but his intensity, his work ethic, how hard he plays,” Casey said.
Patterson said he’s thrilled to have come into a team in Toronto where he fits so well.
“It feels great, knowing that my teammates look for me, everyone on down the list is encouraging me to shoot the ball no matter where I am on the court, and when the coaching staff is drawing up plays for you and the ball seems to be bouncing your way at times, and then you have the crowd behind you, it’s definitely a great feeling,” Patterson said.
The Raptors shot 47 per cent on the night to the Kings’ 42. The Raptors were the superior team from long range, shooting 10-for-21 from beyond the arc. The Kings went just 5-for-19 from three-point range.
Toronto looked rejuvenated from a rare four days off without a game, racing out to an early eight-point lead in a foul-filled first quarter. The Raptors were up 29-19 going into the second.
“I thought that we were awful tonight,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “The first and third quarter I thought that our starting group was not ready to play. . . I am very disappointed with the effort tonight and we are nowhere near good enough to come into a playoff team’s house and think we can go through the motions and try to turn it on when we want to.
“We are not that good a team.”
The Raptors stretched their lead to 13 early in the second and then went cold, shooting 33 per cent in the quarter and allowing the Kings to pull to within two points. Toronto took a 51-44 advantage into the dressing room at halftime.
Ross poured in nine points in the third including a three with 3:13 left that put the Raptors up by 15, their biggest lead to that point. A layup by Patterson with three seconds left sent Toronto into the fourth quarter with an 80-63 advantage.
NOTES: The Raptors are in Minnesota on Sunday and Brooklyn on Monday then return to host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. . . Toronto, which beat Golden State 104-98 at ACC last Sunday, hasn’t dropped back to back home games since losing three straight in late November.Report Typo/Error