The Phoenix Suns came to the Air Canada Centre on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff race. They played the Toronto Raptors tough all afternoon, and emerged with a desperately needed win. The visitors took advantage of 13 more trips to the charity stripe, and a huge game from their second unit, to disappoint the large home crowd. The Raps needed a big Q4 to overcome a 6-point Suns lead, and could neither make the shots, nor get the defensive stops, they needed.
While it may seem absurd, despite giving up a crazy number of points, the Raps’ defense was acceptable. More precisely, the Suns’ first shots were contested, and they made a number of jump shots just over the fingertips of Raps’ defenders. Toronto did permit too many offensive rebounds; in fact, Phoenix won both ends, and out-boarded the Raps 45-26. How Markieff Morris could grab 14 boards off the bench is a question Dwane Casey will be asking tomorrow, probably with some rancor in his tone. He’ll also ask pointedly how our second unit could get outscored 59-11. Gerald Green did much of the damage, leading the Suns with 28 points, including 5 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc. He received a technical foul for taunting the Raps’ bench in Q4 after hitting a 3. Grow up, already. Speaking of hissy fits – coach Casey and DeMar DeRozan were both T-ed up for showing their outrage following a play in which DD appeared to be fouled on a drive. Not only didn’t he get the call, the refs decided the ball had gone out of bounds off his body. One more: Steve Novak was furious at being replaced by John Salmons with 33 seconds to play, and resisted all attempts by Jonas Valanciunas to calm him down. I think Novak was right, though I don’t approve of showing up the coach. Salmons’ shooting has been colder than Toronto’s winter, and we needed some long balls.
While Kyle Lowry busted his hump all game, and led the Raps with 28 points, I suspect he’d be the first one to say he was disappointed in his play. The Raps missed all 7 long balls they tried in Q4, and 3 of those were from his hands. He was certainly passing well, handing out 13 assists. Once again, a happy recipient was Amir Johnson, who rolled down the lane to score 20. Terrence Ross started hot again; his first 3 long balls of the game touched nothing but string. While we can’t complain too much about 22 points, and respectable D, I think there’s more production hidden in this talented fellow which needs to come out. DeMar’s jump shooting slippage continued, and he needed a Q3 burst to help him end with 17 points and, happily, 7 assists.
Phoenix took full advantage of their 38 free throws, making 34. They also hit 4 more 3-balls, and those advantages were enough to overcome the Raps’ 4 more field goals.
Toronto hits the road, with games in Atlanta on Tuesday, then New Orleans the following night.
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