The Phoenix Suns come to Toronto a much different team than the Steve Nash-led speedballers who would regularly pile up huge numbers against the Raps’ porous defence. Captain Canada wears Laker purple & gold now. His former team is led in points & assists by another scrawny non-American Point Guard, Goran Dragic, the pride of Slovenia. Dragic is not the Suns’ only important European; starting Centre Marcin Gortat’s nickname is the Polish Hammer. Power Forward Markieff Morris has pushed veteran Luis Scola to the bench, which is something of a gamble by Coach Alvin Gentry. The Suns are hanging around the playoff race, but Gentry clearly believes his rebuild should favour youth over experience. Michael Beasley, the other starting Forward, has had a checkered professional career. Now on his third team in 5 seasons, the #2 pick of the 2008 draft (ahead of current stars like Kevin Love & Russell Westbrook) has never realized his considerable potential as a scorer. “Project” or troubled players seldom work out, & Beasley is disappointing the Suns, bumping along at 12 points & 4+ boards per game. He shoots 3-balls at a 26% rate, so the Raps will be happy if he decides to bomb away. Shannon Brown is likely to be the Shooting Guard tonight (with a Gentry lineup, it’s hard to be sure) & is another player who’s bounced around the NBA. While he’s finally scoring in double digits, he is not a serious threat to go off, assuming DeMar DeRozan plays any kind of defence.
Ex-Raps Jermaine O’Neal, in his 17th season, & P.J. Tucker may see the floor tonight. Tucker’s route back to the NBA reminds me of the much-stamped passport of Alan Anderson. Jermaine is averaging 8 points & 5 boards this season, respectable numbers for an aging player with a lengthy injury history.
The Suns are playing their 4th away game in 6 nights. They were smoked by 40 in Detroit on Wednesday, a game in which the Pistons outscored them 62-33 in the second half. The Suns aren’t that bad, but they are certainly road-weary & have not shot the ball well recently. The Raptors have a number of players (Bargnani, Lowry, Johnson, Valanciunas) not at full health, but will hopefully be patched together sufficiently to meet the Suns’ challenge.
I’m tempted to try reverse psychology by calling for the Suns to win. But I’ll play it straight for one more game. The Raps break their 6-game losing skid with a 94-88 victory.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.