Time: 5:30 pm (Phoenix time)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona, NBA TV
Radio: 98.7 FM
A rare Holidays with Deadpoolio doubleheader! Today we celebrate Krampusnacht. Well, most of us do. Naughty children in parts of Europe and the United States will be hit with switches by St. Nicholas’ right-hand, umm, goat-horned demon, Krampus. Sleep tight, kids!
The Phoenix Suns (9-16) will try to stave off fatigue and close out the road trip at 3-3 as they head north of the border to face the Toronto Raptors (14-7).
Toronto comes into this game well rested, having last played on Dec. 1 in a 120-115 victory over the Indiana Pacers. This will be their getaway game before a four-game Western Conference road trip.
For the Raptors, the scouting report begins with their backcourt. DeMar DeRozan is leading the team with 23.4 points per game, but that is nearly four points below what he averaged last season. Kyle Lowry is their other main offensive threat, but he, too, is seeing his offensive production wane. His 16.4 points per game is six points below what he averaged last season and his lowest since his first season in Toronto. That’s because others are helping carry the scoring burden this season. Serge Ibaka (11.9 points), Jonas Valanciunas (10.5), and C.J. Miles (10.2) all average double figures, and eleven Raptors average at least six points. They struggle on the glass, though, as Lowry is the team’s second-best rebounder.
Toronto possesses the fourth-highest scoring offense in the NBA at 110.9 points per game. They are below average from 3 (35.1 percent) but rank second in the league for overall field goal shooting (48.8 percent). They shoot 57 percent from inside the arc. The Raptors also move the ball well (23.3 assists per game, sixth in NBA) and limit turnovers (14.4 per game, 10th in NBA). Defensively, they rank tenth in opponent scoring (103.7), ninth in steals (8.2), third in blocks (5.7), seventh in opponent field goal percentage (44.7), and fourth in opponent rebounding (41.4). Their efficient offense and above average defense are why they sit in third place in the East.
Points: DeMar DeRozan (23.4)
Rebounds: Jonas Valanciunas (7.0)
Assists: Kyle Lowry (7.0)
The Suns are coming in on the second game of a back-to-back while also wrapping up a long road trip. They might be a little tired after their win against the Philadelphia 76ers, as the starters logged heavy minutes (with the exception of Marquese Chriss) holding off a late Sixers’ surge.
Devin Booker continues to do Devin Booker things. He had four points on 2-of-11 shooting in the 1st quarter against Philly, then casually had 42 on 15-of-21 shooting the rest of the way. He’s one of the rare players who can make a 46-point game seem routine. T.J. Warren played the partner-in-crime role to perfection as well, scoring 25 points and helping Phoenix improve to 6-0 when he scores 25 or more points this season. And let’s not forget about Tyson Chandler, the wily veteran. He was in Joel Embiid’s head as much as he was in his grill last night, leading to a 7-of-18 shooting night for the talented young center. It was a team effort, but those three really came up big for the Suns in Philadelphia.
In the two wins during this road trip, Phoenix has held opponents to 100 points per game on 41.6-percent shooting from the field and 32.9 percent from 3. In the three losses, they’ve allowed 122 points on 54.2-percent shooting from the field and 45 percent from 3.
Points: Devin Booker (24.5)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (9.8)
Assists: Tyler Ulis (4.2)
Brandon Knight (Suns): torn left ACL (OUT)
Davon Reed (Suns): torn left meniscus (OUT)
Alan Williams (Suns): torn right meniscus (OUT)
Jakob Poeltl (Raptors): illness (QUESTIONABLE)
Lucas Nogueira (Raptors): right calf tear (OUT)
Delon Wright (Raptors): dislocated right shoulder (OUT)
This would be a tough game under the best of circumstances. These are not the best of circumstances. The Raptors have been resting since Friday while the Suns are playing their second game in as many nights on the last leg of the longest road trip of their season. Not ideal. If the Raptors land an early haymaker, Jay Triano might just rest his key players and get his bench some playing time. However, if Phoenix keeps contact with Toronto into the 2nd half, the Suns have a shot based on youthful exuberance alone. They will need to keep the Raptors’ efficient 2-point attack under control, though, and with Chandler a prime candidate for the DNP-CD after playing 37 minutes the night before, the Suns’ defense must compensate accordingly.
Devin Booker vs. DeMar DeRozan
This one is simple. Both Booker and DeRozan lead their respective teams. If Booker comes out flat against DeRozan and the Raptors, it’s a poor omen of what’s to come for Phoenix. If Booker carries the fire over from last night, the Suns just might win. These are the matchups Booker enjoys the most — competing against All-Star talent. Here’s hoping he digs out one more bravura performance.
Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)
The Suns’ all-time winning percentage of .707 (29-12) over the Toronto Raptors is their highest against any team in the NBA.