DeMarcus Cousins is starting to find his rhythm again, and a depleted Toronto frontcourt suggests the beat might go on.
Cousins will get another look at the team he shredded last month when his Sacramento Kings visit the Raptors on Sunday night.
In Sacramento's 107-101 win over Toronto on Nov. 15, Cousins had 36 points and 10 rebounds as part of a three-game stretch with at least 30 points. Things slowed down considerably for the All-Star power forward, though, as he sat out one November game to serve a suspension and missed three others with back and thigh injuries.
In his first game back, Cousins scored 31 points, but he averaged just 14.3 in a trio of Sacramento losses that followed. He seems to have finally calmed the roller-coaster ride, however, by averaging 25.0 points and 11.5 rebounds in the last four games as the Kings (10-16) have won three of those.
Cousins will face a Toronto frontcourt playing without a pair of key contributors. DeMarre Carroll (knee) has missed the last seven games and Jonas Valanciunas (hand) has sat out 14 straight, but each will visit doctors this week seeking clearance for returns. In the meantime, the defense on Cousins will be left to center Bismack Biyombo.
Another strong game for Cousins might help Sacramento fix its struggles away from home. The Kings dropped their fourth straight road game with Friday's 99-95 loss at Minnesota to open a four-game trip. They fell to 2-9 on the road and play six of their next nine games away from Sleep Train Arena.
The loss to the Timberwolves also denied Sacramento a season-best four-game winning streak.
''We had to be punched before we reacted,'' Kings coach George Karl said. ''I don't know if we're good enough to do that on the road.''
The Kings were outrebounded 49-31, but Cousins grabbed 11 boards to go with 24 points as the Kings fell to 7-4 when he scores that many. Former Raptor Rudy Gay added 20 points, while Rajon Rondo finished with 11 points and 13 assists - his fifth straight game with at least 10 assists.
Prior to Sacramento's victory earlier this season, the Raptors won the previous three games in this series. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry scored 24 and 22 points, respectively, in Toronto's loss last month.
The Raptors (17-11) have won four straight home games and salvaged the finale of a three-game road trip with Friday's 108-94 victory at Miami. DeRozan poured in 30 points, his third game with as many this season, and Lowry chipped in 21 as the Raptors snapped a two-game skid.
Toronto rallied from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter, outscoring Miami 58-39 after halftime.
''I liked the way we competed,'' coach Dwane Casey said. ''I thought we came out of the locker room in the second half, third quarter, juices flowing a little bit.''
Casey changed his starting lineup, inserting James Johnson for Terrence Ross, but he also said that may not be a permanent switch.
Gay has averaged 19.3 points in 17 games against the Raptors, who he played with for the second half of the 2012-13 season and the opening 18 games of 2013-14.