The Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors were both on the second game of a back-to-back. The Suns were more ready to play.
The Raptors just could not find the range and were down 14 points going into the 4th quarter before going on a big run - making their first 4 threes of the quarter - and even pulled within 5 points with 2:52 to play. They pulled to 5 points again within the final minute, going with four guards most of the 4th to get the Suns nervous.
The rookies all played well on this night. Marquese Chriss had 8/2 in 19 minutes, including a three and pair of slams, Dragan Bender had 3/3 in 11 minutes (and 3 fouls), and Tyler Ulis had 10 points, 2 rebounds and an assist in 15 minutes.
Devin Booker woke up - and maybe hushed some critics? - with 8 critical points on 3 possessions with the game in the balance. He had a strong and-one and then a shot-clock-beating long three to give the Suns an 11-point lead with 1:46 to play.
Devin Booker finished with 19/5/5 while Eric Bledsoe had 22/10/5. P.J. Tucker was the team’s 3rd leading scorer at 14 points.
Lowry and DeRozan each had 24 points for the Raptors, while Corey Joseph added 15.
The big home crowd gave the Suns a standing ovation as the time expired on a 99-91 win for the Suns, their 10th of the season.
Eric Bledsoe opened the scoring with a drive to the baseline and short jumper.
Tyson Chander had 4 points and 4 rebounds in the first five minutes to help the Suns take a 12-4 lead.
But then DeMar DeRozan took over and led the Raptors to finish the first quarter on a 14-4 run to take a 18-16 lead after one quarter.
The Suns were loose with the ball, had NINE turnovers to only 7 made baskets. The turnovers weren’t even made by the kiddies - nay, it was Tyson Chandler, Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren and Brandon Knight with 2 each, plus Leandro Barbosa with 1.
Dragan Bender came in early - definitely getting the Dudley minutes now - and played his usual game defensively (meaning: good), grabbed some rebounds, and missed a couple of threes before draining one in the second quarter.
Tyler Ulis got some good game time as well once Brandon Knight picked up his 3rd foul early in the second quarter, and delivered well on the offensive end but was a quick and often target of the stronger Raptors guards on the other end.
The same was true for the Raptors going after Dragan Bender as well, who held up pretty most of the time but committed three fouls in 11 minutes.
Eric Bledsoe was the player of the first half for the Suns, with 13 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds.
Somehow, despite the Suns committing 15 turnovers and one shot clock violation in the first half, the SUNS HAD A LEAD at 42-40 thanks to the Raptors shooting only 36% from the field (including 1/14 on threes).
Suns lead 42-40.
Why does this lead feel so precarious? Maybe because it’s the Suns.
After giving up a 13-2 run to the Spurs last night to erase a halftime lead before breathing hard from exertion, the Suns came out determined not to let that happen again.
The Suns played the passing lanes and rebounded hard, and twice got the Raptors to run out the clock trying to find a good shot.
The Raps still opened the quarter on a 5-2 run but then the Suns responded in a BIG way with a 18-5 run of their own to take a 62-50 lead. Bledsoe and Tucker scored 5 points each during the run.
Kyle Lowry made a couple of shots, but the Suns would not be denied from that point. The Suns lead stretched to 72-58 and finished the quarter up 76-62.
Eric Bledsoe had 22 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds, while Devin Booker woke up a bit to tally 10/5/5 by the end of the third.
With Tyson Chandler sitting with a twisted ankle, the Suns trotted out a 4th quarter lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, T.J. Warren and Alex Len.
Let’s see how long this lasts.
Welp, the Raptors went on a quick 8-3 run with a pair of threes fueled by a 4-guard lineup.
A big Bledsoe steal, HUGE Tucker three and then a SLAM block by Len got the crowd into it in a big way.
Then the Raptors made two more threes and suddenly the Suns lead was back down to six.
They were 4-4 on threes to start the fourth quarter before Kyle Lowry heat-checked a miss and Watson called timeout to get his guys under control.