Phoenix Suns (7-9) at Raptors (11-6): Preview and 3 keys to victory


The Toronto Raptors play their second game in less than 24 hours, as they take on the skidding Phoenix Suns. The desert lads have dropped four straight games, and have been torched in the last two. Whether Toronto’s offense can regain its balance will go a long way to determining the outcome.

The Raptors have responded admirably recently to coach Dwane Casey’s emphasis on tough defense. Toronto has held opponents to under a century in its last five games. Not surprisingly, four of those were wins. That stout effort needs to be in place once again, as the Suns are the NBA’s third highest scoring team at 106.2 Points Per Game [PG].

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This game will be another battle of the backcourts. Phoenix enjoys the services of Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, both of whom fill up the stat table. While Knight is the point, I suppose, they are both combo guards. They average 44.6 Points and 11.5 Assists PG, so the message is simple – stifle these two, and win the game.

Nov 27, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (right) controls the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry in the first quarter at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns are likely to be without Tyson Chandler, which is a big advantage for the Raptors. Despite Chandler’s age, he’s still a defensive beast, and can chip in buckets on the other end. Alex Len will tip off against Bismack Biyombo. Len may be a formidable player in a few years, but he’s still learning his trade. Think Timofey Mozgov-lite.

P.J. Tucker, a player who got away from the Raptors years ago, will likely draw the assignment of getting in DeMar DeRozan’s grill. Tucker isn’t an offensive option, so DD should be able to provide help defense, particularly when the Phoenix guards penetrate.

Markieff Morris seems to have shut his yap since his notorious trade-me-now comments in the off-season. He’s more than adequate at power forward, and I’d still like to see him in Raptor red (or Drake’s black and gold, or Canadian Forces camo, or visiting black and red…enough uniforms already).

The Suns as a team average an unimpressive 19.9 Assists PG, or 8.4 from players not named Knight or Bledsoe. That should give you an idea of their rotation players, who are retreads like Mirza Telotovic and Sonny Weems (yes, that Sonny Weems). The best is T.J. Warren, a gifted scorer I was hoping would fall to the Raptors in the 2014 draft. Terrence Ross (or James Johnson?) will need his best game to keep this guy under control.

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The Suns are struggling at the moment, but I think are better than their record. The Raptors can prevail if they…:

  1. …get Len in foul trouble. The Suns have little rim protection behind him. Phoenix has surrendered 255 points in their last 2 games.
  2. …keep the ball on the perimeter on D. We don’t want the Suns guards in the paint, where they can do a lot of damage, and/or get our best rim protector, Biyombo, in difficulty. Granted, Phoenix ranks second in 3-balls made PG with 10.3, but I like our defenders well enough to take my chances.
  3. …win the turnover battle. The Suns surrender the second-highest number at 17.1 PG, 8.7 of which are steals. Both those numbers favour the Raptors.

The Raptors have had difficulty with this team over the years, but I think we’re in good shape for this game. Toronto 116 – Phoenix 106.