Programming note: Raptors-Kings coverage starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. with Kings Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (territory restrictions apply) Channel locations
After losing Sunday 97-85 to Memphis (15-2) -- owners of the NBA’s best record -- the Kings (9-8) host the Eastern Conference’s best team in the Raptors (13-4).
DeMarcus Cousins has missed two straight games due to a virus and is listed as questionable as Sacramento will attempt to snap a three-game losing streak.
[NEWS: Cousins questionable vs. Raptors]
The Kings entertain the Raptors in the second game of a five-game homestand and have eleven of their next thirteen games at Sleep Train Arena.
In contrast to Memphis’ frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, who on Sunday went for 22 and 18 points, respectively, Toronto’s perimeters players need to be Sacramento’s focus on Tuesday.
However, Toronto arrives in California’s capital city without guard DeMar DeRozan who leads the Raptors, averaging 19.4 points per game. The former USC Trojan is out indefinitely with a torn left groin.
“DeMar obviously is an All-Star player, but they still have a lot of depth and talent,” Kings coach Michael Malone said after practice on Monday. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us, especially our guards.
“We have to have great communication on pick-and-rolls. We have to get into their guards.”
Toronto is second in the NBA, scoring 108.5 points per game, yet is riding its first two-game losing streak of the season after falling to Dallas 106-102 at home on Friday and in overtime to the Lakers 129-122 in Los Angeles on Sunday.
“Kyle Lowry: All-Star caliber point guard, Lou Williams wins Eastern Conference Player of the Week coming off the bench, just can score in numbers,” Malone offered in a quick scouting report.
“We just gotta contain Lou Williams off the bench because he can change the game in a hurry.”
Sacramento did a nice job limiting Mike Conley to 10 points and six assists on Sunday after he went for 22 points and 11 assists in the team’s first meeting of the season.
Can they follow up and contain Toronto’s depth in the backcourt?
If the Kings don’t, regardless of Cousins’ status, Sacramento may struggle to get back in the win column.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Battle of the Backcourts -- Darren Collison & Ben McLemore vs. Kyle Lowry & Lou Williams.
Lowry was conspicuous by his absence on last year’s All-Star roster and is averaging 19.2 points and 6.6 assists per game this season.
Williams has been especially devastating of late: In three Raptor wins from Nov. 17-23, he averaged 23.7 points per game and shot 52.6 percent from 3-point range en route to being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
HERENDA’S AGENDA/KEYS TO VICTORY: 1) Double digits: Toronto is second in the league in scoring at 108.5 points per game and second in getting to the free throw line -- trailing only the Kings.
Sacramento allows only 97.9 points per game in their wins and needs to keep Toronto under 100.
2) Strong with the ball: Sacramento must match the physicality of the Raptors' perimeter players.
The Kings cannot afford to help out Toronto’s prolific offense by turning it over like they did on Sunday, when 23 turnovers led to 23 Grizzlies points.
3) Rudy Gay: The former UConn Huskie has scored 23 and 20 points versus San Antonio and Memphis, respectively, after missing two games with right Achilles tendinitis.
While Gay plays through the injury, keep an eye not only on his points but assists as a measure of how smoothly the Kings offense is operating versus his former team.
Being a facilitator is the next step in Gay’s evolution and he’s had five or more assists in seven games this season.
INJURY UPDATE: Sacramento -- C DeMarcus Cousins (virus) is questionable.
Toronto -- G DeMar DeRozan (torn left adductor longus tendon) is out.
SERIES HISTORY: This is the first of two meetings this season between Sacramento and Toronto. Last year both teams protected their respective home courts, splitting the season series.
The Kings have won the last four games versus the Raptors in Sacramento and lead the overall series, 22-13.