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Recap: Phoenix Suns Rediscover Defense and Rebounding in Victory over Toronto Raptors, 121-113

Gerald Green had a team-high 28 points in the victory over the Raptors.
Gerald Green had a team-high 28 points in the victory over the Raptors.
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

I hoped you like excitement with your bacon and eggs!  The early match-up between the Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors was a high-scoring, fast-paced treat and a nice change of pace from the quicksand sloppiness of the Suns' victory over the Boston Celtics.  Phoenix kept up their winning ways, downing Toronto 121-113 to sweep the season series versus the Raps.  Gerald Green rediscovered his shooting touch, scoring 28 points on 9-18 shooting.  The whole team rediscovered its defensive focus.  Despite giving up 113 points, Phoenix held Toronto to 49.4% shooting and 30.4% from downtown.  And they absolutely destroyed Toronto on the boards, outrebounding them 45-26.  It was a much-needed solid win over a playoff-bound team.

Goran Dragić put up a now-typical line of 19 points and 4 assists.  Eric Bledsoe did most of his damage at the free throw line, going a perfect 10-10 en route to 14 points.  Markieff Morris was invaluable, gobbling up 14 rebounds to go with his 16 points and P.J. Tucker did an excellent job on Raptors' leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, holding him to 17 points on 6-16 shooting.

Hats off to a terrific Toronto team who stayed with the Suns till the last minute.  Kyle Lowry started slowly, but finished with 28 points ant 13 assists.  And Toronto's starting frontcourt was tremendous offensively, but offensive defensively.  Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross combined for 57 points on 23-36 rebounds, but only managed a meager 8 rebounds between them.

Phoenix will need to continue its momentum on both ends of the court against the Nets tomorrow night in Brooklyn.

First Half

The pace favored the Suns early if the score did not.  Miles Plumlee drew 2 fouls in first 5 minutes and went to the bench early, sparing Suns fans more in-and-out jump hooks.  It didn't matter who was guarding Jonas Valanciunas as he was killing the Suns in the paint and from the wing, going 6-8 for 13 first quarter points to pace the Raptors.  For Phoenix, Goran Dragić carried the offense early until Gerald Green entered the game and re-discovered his touch, hitting his first 5 shots to match Valanciunas' 13 points.  The offense was firing on all cylinders even if the defense continued to struggle.  Despite giving up 65% shooting, the Suns took a 37-35 lead in to the second quarter.

The fast pace continued into the second, but not the hot shooting.  After both teams shot over 60% to start the game, they went a combined 2-12 in the first 3 minutes of the second stanza.  The Phoenix bench found some long-absent defensive intensity and managed to open up and maintain a 7 to 9 point lead.  P.J. Tucker continued his strong play, going to the line on consecutive possessions after getting fouled grabbing big offensive rebounds.

The defensive intensity continued once most of the starters re-entered the game.  After allowing 35 first quarter points, Toronto only managed 14 points in the first 10 minutes of the second.  But the last 2 minutes of the second quarter were disastrous, as Toronto went on a 10-2 run to close a 10-point gap to 2.  At the half, the Suns lead 61-59.

Second Half

Hey!  Remember back when Miles Plumlee looked like a total steal?  He looked like that again in the second half, taking Valanciunas off the dribble and then showing some fine footwork on an up-and-under move for 4 straight Suns points early in the third quarter.  Further helping the Suns' cause, P.J. Tucker continued to lock up DeMar DeRozan.  After the Raptors got calls nearly every time they entered the lane, the Suns got strips on consecutive possessions with 7 minutes left in the third quarter.  On the second, both Raptors coach Dwane Casey and DeRozan drew technical fouls.  Eric Bledsoe hit both free throws to extend the Phoenix lead back to 10, 80-70.

And that was just the beginning of the fireworks!  P.J. Tucker forced yet another turnover which led to 2 more Eric Bledsoe free throws. Then Miles Plumlee blocked an Amir Johnson dunk attempt which led to a Tucker fast break lay-up, stretching the lead to 14 before a Terrence Ross lay-up stopped the bleeding for the Raptors.  It was a tremendous defensive stretch for a Suns team that has struggled on that end for several games. Sadly, it didn't last as Kyle Lowry proceeded to demonstrate that his All-Star snub was just as egregious as The Dragon's, scoring 10 of Toronto's next 16 points to cut the Suns' lead to 2.  The Suns recovered to lead 96-90 after three.

The fourth quarter started with continued strong defense by Phoenix, holding Toronto scoreless for the first 4 minutes, while stretching their advantage to 14.  While Toronto never gave up on the came, they were unable to get any closer than 7 points as the game came to a close.

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