"Don't worry, man. It's my town!" (Photo by Max Simbron)
Fact: Due to my ignorance of tip-off times in the NBA, and specifically Canada, I didn't realize the game time was 11A in Phoenix and 10A here in Los Angeles. I apologize for the tardiness on a game preview.
Fact: Due to said ignorance, I had already committed to receiving several free drinks from a friend as compensation for some services rendered this holiday weekend.
Fact: This preview has been written under the influence of said drinks, so take whatever follows with a grain of salt (and a shot of tequila and the subsequent sucking of a lime).
The last time the Phoenix Suns played the Toronto Raptors, it was but for the grace of an off-target Hedo Turkoglu jumper that the Suns walked away with a victory. I would not be surprised if the Suns were similarly tested against their Canadian foes this time around. Toronto has one of the most potent offenses in the NBA and is coming off a particularly humiliating loss to the Boston Celtics. I expect they'll come out feeling like they have something to prove to their fans. Unless the Suns bring a suddenly improved defense to the table, this will largely be contest of finely tuned offensive machines.
- The Suns are looking to continue their 3 game winning streak while the Raptors are hoping to end their losing skid at 2. This is a winnable game for the Suns and they are going to need all the momentum they can muster heading into the buzzsaw that is their December schedule.
- Despite the Suns' defensive weaknesses, Toronto's ability to stop opposing offenses is even worse. The Raptors are at the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency allowing 113.6 points per 100 possessions. That does not bode well for them going up against the Suns' top-ranked offense.
- Nevertheless, after getting punked by the Celtics (including a literally emasculating dunk by Paul Pierce over Chris Bosh), the Raptors will be looking to show some pride for the Toronto faithful. They could come out on a mission.
- More fuel for the Toronto fire: Prior to losing to the Celtics, the Raptors were dropped by whopping 35 points by the Charlotte Bobcats. They will definitely be looking to make a stand here at home.
- History is on our side. The Suns have won 12 in a row versus the Raptors and have the advantage of having Captain Canada himself leading the charge for lucky number 13.
While Jose Calderon has had his moments, Steve Nash should have his way with the young point guard. Eventually Demar Derozan (who is as smooth as they come offensively) will have a nice NBA career, but the young fella is no match for a Jason Richardson who has simply been on fire of late. Off the bench, Goran Dragic and Leandro Barbosa should be able to go blow for blow with Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli.
It's a brave new world for the Suns. With Robin Lopez back in the mix, the Suns have the ability to occasionally "go big" with a legitimate 7 footer. While Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh are both offensive threats, neither one does a lot of damage in the post, so I suspect the Suns will stick with a more mobile (and better conditioned at this point) front court of Amare Stoudemire, Channing Frye, and Lou Amundson. Oh and then there's that Turkoglu guy. Hedo is a stone cold killer and Grant Hill and Jared Dudley will have their hands full trying to contain him.
On paper, this is the Suns' game to lose. They are better both offensively and defensively than the Dinos. While it's no walk in the park, it's definitely a very winnable game. But, hell hath no fury like a Canadian scorned (see Steve Nash, post-Dallas) and I expect the Raptors to give the Suns all they can handle. Look for another close Suns win in an entertaining shoot-out.
Don't forget to check out our friends at Raptors HQ for the opposition's take on this match-up.
Post-preview fact: I wrote this entire post with a kitten perched on my chest. Ergo, this post is filled with love.
See you bright and early, Suns fans!