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Slow start dooms Raptors in loss to Kings

By Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun

The Raptors have talent, there is little doubt of that.

What the team lacks though, is any sort of consistency.

There is little continuity or carryover on a game-to-game basis, and on Sunday night at the ACC, the high of a big win in Miami two days earlier did not provide any kind of an early spark.

No, the most wretched of a string of truly terrible first quarters did the Raptors in against a Sacramento club that improved to just 3-9 on the road with a wire-to-wire — it’s first of the year — 104-94 triumph.

The Raptors trailed 7-0, forcing an early timeout by coach Dwane Casey, went down 37-18 after the first and dropped to 17-12 fully on merit, with Kyle Lowry getting himself ejected near the start of the third quarter by refusing to disengage with officials who were in no mood to listen to gripes from either side.

“It’s terrible. It’s totally unacceptable the way we performed tonight,” an agitated Casey said when it was over. “I’ll take the blame. I guess I didn’t tell them before the game how hard this was going to be. This team (Sacramento) is pissed off. They’re upset. They’re going to come here like mad hornets. We came in like we’d done something in Miami. This is a tough league. If we don’t accept that, then it’s on us. Shame on us. The way you come into the game with that disposition, ‘OK, we’re at home, we’re OK,” that’s not OK. How many times do we have to do that before it smacks us upside the head?”

Nobody in the locker room is quite sure of the answer.

We’re just so up and down, we have to focus, we have to do a lot better coming out of the gate,” said Patrick Patterson, who, ironically, turned in his best game in nearly two months, with 18 points, second only to DeMar DeRozan’s 28.

“We can’t have brain farts and lapses like we do, we have to stay consistent, we have to stay solid and figure out whatever it takes to have strong starts.”

DeMarcus Cousins had a rare off-night against a squad he normally pulverizes (he averaged more points against them than any opponent heading in), but still came to life in the fourth and finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Rajon Rondo was spectacular, with 19 points and 13 assists and ex-Raptor Rudy Gay added 19 points and nine rebounds in his latest Toronto return.

It was a meeting of two confounding clubs. Two sides stocked with veterans, helmed by two coaches trying to figure out how to get them to play better out of the gate every night.

Sacramento had fallen behind Minnesota by 14 points early in a recent game and George Karl had been trying to discover how things could change.

“I think our establishment has got to be defence and energy,” Karl told the Sacramento Bee on Saturday. “That’s got nothing to do with offence. We’re a team that has to outwork people to win games on the road.”

That the visitors did.

Sacramento had started the season just 2-9 away, but came out looking more like California rivals Golden State than the Kings of old, building that huge edge in the first, Toronto’s second-worst quarter of the year.

“The way they played tonight, they just came out with the intensity, speed that I don’t think we expected,” Lowry said.

It’s hard to believe, though, that the Raptors weren’t expecting the push.

Casey had sounded a warning beforehand, despite what he said afterward about taking the blame.

“We’ve got to fight whatever that is to get a quicker start,” Casey had said.

“It’s up to the guys. They have to decide how they want to come out of the locker room. How they want to approach the game, what disposition they want to have and go from there.”

Casey and some of his players have mentioned for unknown reasons, the team likes “taking a few punches” on most nights before playing the way it is capable of.

That was once again the case, with the squad rallying to turn around another game that seemed lost early, but never getting close enough, thanks to the 22-point edge Sacramento had built.

The loss of Lowry didn’t help matters.

“I mean, I don’t know what I can say, what I can’t say and it’s not worth it for me to get fined. At the end of the day it’s my fault,” Lowry said, to his credit, facing the media.

“I’ve gotta have better composure and I take all responsibility for my actions. It sucks that I couldn’t be out there with my teammates, that’s the most frustrating part is I let my teammates down and the organization. So it’s more frustrating on that end than anything else.”