Two lottery-bound teams tip off in the desert tonight. The Phoenix Suns have been out of the playoff conversation for months, but the Toronto Raptors were still alive until a disastrous 5-game losing streak. The Raps have scored over 100 points in their last 2 matches, though they lost both because of porous defense. Can they continue to fill the basket, while limiting the scoring of the punch-less Suns? The Raps can’t take this game lightly; the Suns have won their last 3, including a victory over the mighty Spurs in San Antonio.
Phoenix’s offense, which is near the bottom of the NBA’s 30 teams, is led by the undersized and skinny Goran Dragic. The Slovenian-born point guard, who looks like an accountant, should not be underrated. He leads his team in points, assists, free throws attempted and steals. At the other guard spot is none other than P.J. Tucker, whom only long-time Raps fans will remember. He was drafted in the same year as Chris Bosh, and impressed me in his limited appearances as a heady, hustling player who might be effective given time and opportunity. He received neither in Toronto, as the Raps cut him loose. He’s since acquired an Alan Anderson-grade passport, with stamps from Ukraine, Israel, Puerto Rico, Greece and Germany, before returning to the NBA. I expect Tucker, a chunky defender, to get up close and personal with DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay.
Continuing the European flavour, we find Marcin Gortat, the Polish Hammer, jumping centre. Gortat is a shot-blocker, but he can also score and rebound. Expect him to tussle with Jonas Valanciunas and possibly Aaron Gray all night. Luis Scola starts at power forward. I’m sure there’s a good reason why Houston amnestied this guy – I just don’t know what it is. He’s a consistent low-teens scorer, and is tough as nails. Jared Dudley is the other forward, for now at least. Phoenix has plugged various bodies in all season, including perpetual disappointment Michael Beasley, who comes off the bench now. The Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus, are re-united since Morris was traded was recently traded from Houston. Whether either of them will impact this game is uncertain.
The Raps offense, as noted earlier, has been potent lately. There’s reason to believe that will continue, particularly since Andrea Bargnani showed signs of a pulse against Golden State. I’m calling for a 106-97 Raps victory.
Brian Boake is a co-editor 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.