Raptors-Kings Preview

The Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors' decision to trade Rudy Gay was seen largely as a move aimed at financial flexibility.

Since the deal, though, they've been one of the better teams in the NBA.

Toronto will face Gay for the first time since trading him when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

Gay shifted teams for the second time in less than two seasons as part of a seven-player deal Dec. 9. The trade also saw Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy join him in Sacramento, while Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes were sent to Toronto.

With two of those acquisitions from the Kings playing on expiring contracts and Gay set to make more than $37 million through next season, the Raptors' motives appeared based on finances.

However, Toronto's 19-10 record since remaking its roster has been among the best in the league and the Raptors (26-22) are atop the Atlantic Division.

"We're playing for each other. Each of us want the best for the others on the team," Vasquez said. "We care about each other and have great chemistry."

Toronto is 10-6 away from home since the deal and has won four of five overall and six of eight, including a 94-79 victory at Utah on Monday. DeMar DeRozan scored nine of his 23 points in the final quarter and the first-time All-Star has averaged 26.8 points over his last eight road contests.

"Honestly, I think there is no pressure on the road," DeRozan said.

Gay has been enjoying one of the most successful stretches of his career in Sacramento, averaging career bests of 20.7 points and 53.0 percent shooting. He averaged 19.4 points and 38.8 percent in 18 games for Toronto this season.

However, what Gay described as a "new beginning" at the time of the trade hasn't appeared to change much for the Kings (16-32). Sacramento is 11-19 since Dec. 9 after also starting eight games below .500 at 5-13.

The club was able to snap a seven-game skid with a 99-70 home win over Chicago on Monday, getting 25 points and 16 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins after he missed six games with a sprained ankle.

"To be honest, I shouldn't have been playing tonight," said Cousins, averaging 25.7 points, 17.3 rebounds and 59.6 percent from the field in his last three against Toronto. "But I'm not the kind of guy to let a nagging injury hold me back. So once I got to the point where I could play through the pain, go through the pain and stiffness in my ankle, I was ready to go."

Sacramento could have the advantage of facing the Raptors without Kyle Lowry after the point guard left Monday's contest with pain in his right knee. Lowry's 7.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game lead Toronto.

Jonas Valanciunas has been surging for the Raptors, scoring 18 points against the Jazz and averaging 16.7 and 58.0 percent shooting over his last six. He was averaging 10.0 points and 49.3 percent prior to that stretch.

The Raptors have dropped five of six meetings with the Kings and are 2-14 all-time in Sacramento.

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