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Phoenix Suns close out road trip with Sunday matinee against the Toronto Raptors

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Phoenix will be looking to sweep the season series

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns at Toronto Raptors

Time: 4 pm (local)

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


The Phoenix Suns (14-29) look to close this three-game road trip at 2-1 with a win over the Toronto Raptors (28-15)

Raptors Update

The Atlantic-leading Raptors enter this game with a sour taste in their mouths after getting beaten down on the road against the Charlotte Hornets 113-78 on Friday. They are just 6-5 as a team in 2017 but 4-1 at the Air Canada Centre.

DeMar DeRozan, a freshly minted All-Star starter, ranks sixth in the NBA in scoring at 28 points per game, which would be the highest scoring average ever by a Raptor for a season. Unique for a shooting guard nowadays, he does most of his damage inside the 3-point line, shooting 49 percent on 2-point attempts. He also draws 8.7 free throws per game (sixth in the NBA) and converts at an 84.8-percent clip. Kyle Lowry is Toronto’s other main threat, averaging 22.3 points and seven assists while shooting 43.8 percent on 3-point attempts and 51.3 percent on 2-point attempts. Jonas Valanciunas, the bruising 7’0 center from Lithuania, is averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds. Terrence Ross is the Raptors’ leading scorer off the bench at 10.5 points per game.

Toronto knows how to put points on the board, ranking third in the NBA in scoring at 110.2 points per game. They do so by being efficient in their offense, shooting 46.7 percent from the field (sixth in the league). They also shoot 38.2 percent from 3 (fourth in the league) but attempt the ninth-fewest 3-pointers per game in the NBA (24.5). The Houston Rockets they are not. To close out the theme of efficiency, the Raptors convert 81.2 percent of their free throws (fourth in the league) and commit a league-low 12 turnovers per game. They also force 9.1 steals per game, which is second in the NBA. The Raptors’ weaknesses are that they don’t move the ball a ton — 19 assists per game (29th in the NBA) — and crash the offensive glass better than the defensive glass.

Team Leaders

Points: DeMar DeRozan (28.0)

Rebounds: Jonas Valanciunas (10.0)

Assists: Kyle Lowry (7.0)

Suns Update

The Suns come off a season sweep of the New York Knicks yesterday and look to pull off the same feat today against the Raptors.

Phoenix has been led by three players in January — Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, and Tyson Chandler. Booker is averaging 26.7 points in the month with a career-high eight straight games with 20 or more points. Plus his shooting averages (48.8 percent overall, 47.8 percent from 3) are much improved from earlier in the season. His turnovers remain a concern, though. Bledsoe has responded to Booker’s improved play with his own, averaging 22.2 points, 7.9 assists, and 5.1 rebounds to give the Suns a daunting 1-2 punch in the backcourt. Then there’s Ol’ Man River — better known as Chandler — who broke Jim Fox’s team record with his seventh consecutive game grabbing 15 or more rebounds yesterday. He is averaging 12.3 rebounds on the year (sixth in the NBA) and 15.6 in January, which is second only to DeAndre Jordan’s 16.9.

Meanwhile, Jared Dudley has drank so much Gatorade while sitting on the bench that he might actually be able to taste the electrolytes.

Opponents are scoring 106.8 points against the Suns in January, which represents a significant drop from earlier in the season. However, that number is a bit misleading since the Suns’ pace has also fallen significantly in January. They are 26th in pace in the NBA (96.49) through their first nine games of 2017. At the same time, opponents are shooting better against the Suns in January than they were beforehand, with 47.2 percent overall and 40.7 percent from 3 both representing increases over their opponent averages in 2016. The Suns have reduced their turnovers (14.9) and foul rate (22.9) in the month, though.

Team Leaders

Points: Devin Booker (20.5)

Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (12.3)

Assists: Eric Bledsoe (6.1)

Injury Report

Lucas Nogueira (Raptors): concussion (QUESTIONABLE)

Patrick Patterson (Raptors): sore left knee (QUESTIONABLE)

Delon Wright (Raptors): shoulder surgery (OUT)

Game Preview

The Suns won the previous meeting between these two teams, a 99-91 victory in Phoenix on Dec. 29. Phoenix will have an opportunity to sweep the season series for the first time since 2013-14.

When these two teams met in December, both were coming off games the previous night. While Phoenix is once again coming in without rest, the Raptors last played on Friday in a game where the Hornets handed them their collective head. The Suns will need to gut this game out against a team that not only wants revenge for its loss a month ago to Phoenix but also one that wants to erase the embarrassment of a 35-point loss in their last game. It will not be easy, but the Suns have played up to their competition more often than not recently. With the Suns, just about anything can happen.

Key Matchup

P.J. Tucker vs. DeMar DeRozan

There will be no rest for the four-time Majerle Hustle Award recipient. After spending 36 minutes chasing Carmelo Anthony around the court, he gets to do the same today against DeRozan. DeRozan actually was held to 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting in their previous matchup but has averaged 29.8 points in the new year. Get ready, P.J. You can rest when you’re dead.

Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)

With two steals in today’s game, P.J. Tucker will tie Amar’e Stoudemire for 15th place on the Phoenix Suns all-time steals list with 447. He passed Charles Barkley (444) in yesterday’s game for 16th place.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com.