Raptors take down Kings in Vancouver to win first preseason game

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Vancouver continues to be a happy place for the Toronto Raptors.

Playing their first pre-season game in the West Coast city since 2018, Toronto defeated the Sacramento Kings 112-99 on Sunday night at Rogers Arena.

The Raptors, who have now won six straight pre-season games in Vancouver over the years, dressed their top five to start Sunday’s game, as Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic looked to implement his new style of offence.

“We have a lot of scorers. It’s not like we lost Pascal, O.G. (Anunoby) and Scottie. We’ve still got the same guys that can score the ball,” said veteran Chris Boucher.

The Raptors started the first half slowly, with the Kings capitalizing off the transition game with steals and blocks to break down court quickly.

“There’s a time and place (for them),” said Rajakovic about his team’s missed shots leading to turnovers. “I thought our guys did a good job attacking and sharing the ball.”

But by the third quarter, the Raptors had increased the tempo and boosted their lead to 23 points allowing bench players to experience some valuable game time.

The Raptors outrebounded their opponents 48-34 and went 10 of 29 from beyond the arc.

“It’s not just about the pace of running, it’s also about making the right decisions and playing to the strengths of our team and finding open people,” said Rajakovic. “There’s a lot of room for growth and it’s going to be a focus.”

Rookie Gradey Dick entered the game with under two minutes left in the third quarter, quickly setting up Gary Trent Jr. for three before recording his first bucket with a jumper. Dick finished the game with five points.

“He’s doing an amazing job and he’s the future of this organization,” said Rajakovic. “But he cannot skip any steps.”

His arrival was greeted by cheers from the Rogers Arena crowd who had been chanting “We want Gradey” from midway through the third quarter.

“It was cute,” Rajakovic said with a smile.

Toronto got O.G. Anunoby and Trent Jr. involved more as the game went on, with the pair finishing with 14 and 22 points, respectively.

Rajakovic spoke during the week of having Scottie Barnes involved more in setting the tempo of the offence, and he was true to his word.

Barnes finished the game with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes.

The game also marked Dennis Schroder’s debut as a Raptor, having signed as a free agent during the summer.

The speedy point guard helped lead Germany to the FIBA World Championship in August.

Schroder finished the game with six points, as well as five rebounds and assists apiece.

“It’s a credit to Jakob (Poetl) as well for setting the screens and then me making the simple plays for my teammates and for myself,” Schroder said after the game.

“That’s what we’ve got to do. Play good defence, run in transition, in offence make easy points, easy layups, easy threes. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole career.”

He was a late arrival to the Raptors, having been given time off to recover from his international play.

“He’s going to give us another dimension in the transition offence,” said Rajakovic.

The Kings finished 48-34 in 2022-23 season making the playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons, before losing in seven games to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of playoffs.

Sacramento relied on Sasha Vezenkov for their offensive output as the power forward finished with 12 for the Kings.

He signed a three-year, $20 million deal with Sacramento after playing in Europe for 12 years.

The Raptors finished 41-41 last season, losing to the Chicago Bulls in the play-in game, with head coach Nick Nurse fired shortly after.

Sunday marked Toronto’s first of four pre-season games. The Raptors return to Toronto to host the Cairns Taipans on Oct. 15, before heading to Chicago to take on the Bulls two days later.

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