SACRAMENTO — There will be nights such as Monday when the Raptors will go through stretches of sublime play.
But what ultimately will define this group will be in its ability to sustain it, which wasn’t the case against the home-town Kings.
For most of the night, the Raptors were the better team, shot the lights out, defended and led by as many as 17 points.
And they showed resilience in coming back late in the fourth quarter when the game turned in favour of the home side.
There is no consolation in losing, but the Raptors did a lot of good things in dropping a 111-108 nailbiter to begin their four-game road trip, which continues Wednesday in Utah against the Jazz.
If the Raptors somehow can bottle the energy they showed in the opening half, extract more from their second unit and continue to receive high-end play from Andrea Bargnani, they will give themselves a chance.
There is no room for slippage, which is what happened against the Kings, especially in the second half when Sacramento emerged as the better team.
In better times for the Kings, Arco Arena used to be a house of horror for visiting teams, but there hasn’t been much to cheer in recent years.
There was a different feel in the air Monday, opening night for the Kings in front of their fans, with baseball’s Giants of nearby San Francisco poised to win the World Series.
A pre-game ceremony to honour Tyreke Evans for last season’s rookie award drew thunderous applause, but the loudest ovations were reserved during the first quarter when word quickly filtered of San Francisco’s win in Texas.
Other than those moments, there wasn’t much to celebrate as the Raptors took the crowd completely out of the game by attacking the basket, making shots and torching the Kings in transition.
There have been moments when the Raptors have looked good in two previous games this season, but none compared to the sheer dominance that unfolded in the opening period.
Reggie Evans was a beast on the boards, becoming the third Raptor in club history and the first since Antonio Davis in 1999 to record 10 rebounds in a quarter.
Evans was so effective that he single-handedly outrebounded the Kings.
He even served as a facilitator from the high post and, shockingly, made his free throws.
As a team, the Raptors got the Kings into early foul trouble by attacking the rim and led 33-16.
Evans became more of a presence in the second quarter, a period that saw him score 14 points on drives to the hole where he used his superior strength and quickness.
The Raptors would take a 62-51 lead into the break, but more than anything the NBA is a game of runs and it was just a matter of time before the home side make its run.
Evans spent the early part of the third quarter in the locker room nursing an upset stomach, but when he returned Evans showed no ill effects from feeling ill.
An Omri Casspi dunk over David Andersen rocked the house and a 9-0 run brought the Kings back to life.
Add in a Kings team that decided to play with a heightened defensive intensity and it was game on going into the fourth quarter.