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Phoenix Suns win fun, ugly game against Toronto Raptors, 107-102

Let us be clear: this is a game the Phoenix Suns should have won. Toronto was on the second game of a back-to-back and looked like it. All it was going to take from Phoenix was sustained effort for 48 minutes. And with that, they struggled.

Mirza Teletović was Supa Hot Fiya tonight.
Mirza Teletović was Supa Hot Fiya tonight.
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Let us be clear: this is a game the Phoenix Suns should have won. Toronto was on the second game of a back-to-back and looked like it.  All it was going to take from Phoenix was sustained effort for 48 minutes.  And with that, they struggled, but not enough to lose a winnable game, eking out a 107-102 victory in Toronto.

The game itself was emblematic of everything fun and frustrating about the Suns season thus far:

  • The T.J. Warren Coming Out Party continued as Warren notched a double-double tonight -- 15 points and 11 rebounds.
  • The Markieff Morris Struggle Is Real Fiesta continued as Kieff managed 7 points on 3-12 shooting and picked up his 4th foul early in the 3rd quarter.  But credit Morris with staying involved and pulling down 8 rebounds.
  • Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic were dueling G.O.A.T.s for Phoenix tonight.  Mirza could not miss, hitting his 6 of his 7 3-point attempts on the way to 20 points.  Meanwhile, Jon Leuer broke out his entire offensive arsenal, starting from the 3-point line with a couple of big makes, then moving in with a sweet floater and finally posterizing both Bismack Biyombo and Patrick Patterson on driving dunks for 16 big points.
  • The Phoenix Suns starters were ineffective for large stretches of the game.  Offensive inefficiency continues to be a bugaboo as the Phoenix starters were a meager 19-58 for 53 points.  More shots than points is never a good thing.
  • The Phoenix Suns defense was just as ineffective, allowing Toronto to stay in the game allowing them to hit 41.4% of their 3 point attempts, and generally refusing to put the game away despite having ample opportunities to do so.
Here's a big problem: the starting unit's offense shrivels up and dies when Brandon Knight's and Markieff Morris' jumpers aren't falling.  This in turn allows defenses to collapse on Eric Bledsoe, forcing bad shots and bad passes.  I think it's on head coach Jeff Hornacek to devise alternate ways of getting that offense in sync when the dribble-drive-and-kick isn't working.

Defensively, the intensity that marked the first 10 games or so seems to be elusive.  Maybe it's been Tyson Chandler's absences with illness and injury, but someone else needs to step up and dial these guys in.  Otherwise wins like these could just as easily be losses.

Next up for Phoenix is a very winnable matchup with the 4-13 Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

First Half

After missing their first 3 shots, Phoenix was able to get into the game with some nice offensive moves by Alex Len.  Len had a nice jump hook over Bismack Biyombo, then followed it with a sweet driving left-handed layup.  P.J. Tucker picked up 2 quick fouls, leading to an early T.J. Warren appearance, and he delivered, finishing the period with 6 points and 3 rebounds.  The Raptors kept it close behind the early offense of DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Lowry (6 points each in the first), as well as the defense of Biyombo (2 blocks in the quarter).

You would think any quarter in which Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic combine for 22 points would be a good one for the Suns, wouldn't you? Unfortunately, they were nearly the only Suns doing anything as the rest of the team missed 11 of their 15 shot attempts in the second and the Phoenix defense couldn't come up with stops for any decent length of time.  Meanwhile the Raptors' backcourt got it going with DeMar DeRozan finally got hot and pumped in 13 points for the Raps, allowing them to go into the half trailing by 4, 53-49.

Second Half

Brandon Knight finally found his stroke, scoring 10 points in the third quarter to help keep the Phoenix lead afloat.  Markieff Morris hit the bench early after picking up his 4th foul to go along with 4 points, so it's not like he was a big loss at that point.  In fact, it may have been a boon as Jon Leuer continued to be an effective offensive option for the Suns. Despite continued big plays by DeRozan and a rejuvenated Luis Scola (who had 7 of his 9 points in the third), Phoenix carried the shakiest 9 point lead I've ever seen into the final quarter.

The fourth quarter was an ugly affair.  The Raptors chipped away at the lead until tying the game at 95 with four minutes left.  At that point, it felt like neither team wanted control of the game as silly turnover was followed by bad foul was followed by terrible miss until P.J. Tucker came up with a huge put back of a missed Markieff Morris jumper to put Phoenix up 103-97 with 1:03 left in the game.  From that point on, it should have been a matter of the Suns making their free throws, but they couldn't even get that right.  Eric Bledsoe and T.J. Warren missed 2 of their 4 free throws in the final minutes, allowing the Raps a chance to tie the game on the final possession, but Eric Bledsoe blocked Luis Scola's three-point attempt with 0.2 seconds left on the clock and that was that.

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