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Phoenix Suns vs. Toronto Raptors: Game Preview

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Can the Suns win their second home game in a row tonight against a very tough Raptors team?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns vs. Toronto Raptors

When: Sunday, January 4th 6 p.m. MST

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena: Phoenix, AZ

Watch: FSAZ (Locally) / NBA League Pass


Tonight, the Phoenix Suns (19-16) will take on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors (24-9) in what promises to be another tough home game.

After losing six games in a row, the Suns bounced back, winning their next six games in a row.  However, the Suns then lost two close, tough road games than came down to the very end, even taking the Oklahoma City Thunder to overtime.

But on Friday night, the Suns once again bounced back against the struggling Philadelphia 76ers notching another mark in the win column.  If the pattern holds true for the streaky Suns, they are due another victory tonight against a very tough Raptors team...but they are going to have to play very well, and fight very hard to get it.

The Toronto Raptors are enjoying their most successful start to the season in franchise history, and held the number one ranking in the Eastern Conference for a record 59 consecutive days until their loss on January 2nd to the Golden State Warriors, which propelled the Atlanta Hawks ahead of them in the standings.The Raptors will be ending a six-game road trip tonight in Phoenix, and the road-weary team will be looking to get one last win before returning home.

Toronto is led by point guard Kyle Lowry, who has scored 20+ points in six consecutive games.  Lowry is averaging 20.7 points, 7.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, in what has been his best season in the NBA thus far.  In addition, the Raptors big man, Jonas Valanciunas, is making his case for recognition as one of the best up-and-coming big men in the league, averaging 12.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

In their first meeting this season in Toronto on November 24, 2014, the Suns lost a close one 104-100. The Suns will have their work cut out for them tonight against a very talented Raptors team, and will have to play their best in order to get the win.

Probable Lineups

Team
Suns
Raptors
PG
Eric Bledsoe
Kyle Lowry
SG
Goran Dragic
Terrence Ross
SF
P.J. Tucker
Landry Fields
PF
Markieff Morris
Amir Johnson
C
Alex Len
Jonas Valanciunas

Injuries: Raptors: DeMar DeRozan: Out (torn adductor tendon).  Suns: None

Tale of the Tape

Team
Suns
Raptors
Record
19-16
24-9
PPG
106.7 (4th)
108 (3rd)
REB
42.2 (16th)
41.5 (22nd)
AST
20.8 (19th)
20.9 (18th)
TO
14.9 (21st)
11.7 (1st)
Leading Scorer
Goran Dragic (16.7)
Kyle Lowry (20.7)
Leading Rebounder
Markieff Morris (5.8)
Jonas Valanciunas (8.5)

What To Watch For

  • Return of the Hydra - The Suns three headed monster has proven to be a deadly combination for opponents, especially when all three are on the court together and pushing the tempo.  The Suns struggled with that a bit over the past three games, with Isaiah Thomas having an off night in New Orleans and OKC, and Dragic going cold from the field against the Sixers.  The Suns need to use their greatest strength to their advantage tonight, which is their speed and scoring in transition in order to get a win against the Raptors.  If the Suns are going to get a win, they will need all three of their guards to contribute.
  • The Block Bros. - Tom Leander coined this name for the Suns duo of Alex Len and Miles Plumlee, who have both been doing an excellent job of protecting the rim and challenging shots lately.  Len and Plumlee combined for 10 blocks against the Sixers, and they will need to continue playing at a high level tonight against not only the bigs in the post, but the penetrating guards who drive to the basket.
  • Intensity - The Suns offense thrives in transition, which is best created by defensive stops and turnovers. The Raptors are the best team in the league when it comes to taking care of the ball, averaging only 11.7 turnovers per game.  However, the Suns are the 3rd best team in the league when it comes to scoring off of turnovers, and 9th in steals per game.  The Suns need to force stops and create turnovers in order to create transition scoring opportunities tonight against Toronto.

Prediction:

I think the Suns will come out focused and ready to play tonight after a slow start against the Sixers on Friday.  The road-weary Raptors are coming off a five game road trip which will end tonight in Phoenix, and I think the Suns should have more energy and a greater resolve at home.  Phoenix wins by six.