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Game Preview: Suns venture north of the border to take on Raptors

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Suns basketball is back tonight!

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns @ Toronto Raptors

When: 5:30 pm (Phoenix time)

Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Canada

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


This will be the first game following the All-Star break and the first meeting of the season for both the Suns and the Raptors. The Raptors are sitting comfortably in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a record of 40-15. They were 9-1 in their previous 10 games (15-1 in their last 16) and boast the second best defense in the NBA

The Suns are 6.5 games out of the playoff race in the West with a 22-33 record and have lower middle of the pack ratings in both offense and defense. They were 3-7 in their last ten games before the break.

On the surface, this game has mismatch written all over it.

If you look a little closer though, the Suns will likely have several key players back from injury tonight which should nudge the odds a little closer to even. They won’t push them to even but closer is still better and might at least give the Suns a fighting chance.

The Raptors

Team Stats: OffRtg - 111.4 (12th), Def Rtg - 105.1 (2nd), NetRtg - plus-6.3 (4th)

Likely Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka

Injury Report: Norman Powell (finger) - Out, Marc Gasol (hamstring) - Out, Dewan Hernandez (ankle) - Out, Patrick McCaw (illness) - Game Time Decision.

Team Leaders

  • Points: Pascal Siakam (23.5)
  • Rebounds: Serge Ibaka (8.0)
  • Assists: Kyle Lowry (7.6)

People who thought the Raptors might drop back to being one of the middling teams in the East after Kawhi Leonard bolted for LA in free agency were wrong. While their offense dropped off a bit (from 5th to 12th), their defense is actually better than last season (up to 2nd from 5th) and their net rating barely changed (down to 4th from 3rd).

Much of that is due to the rise of 4th year player Pascal Siakam to an All-Star level player. He leads the Raps in scoring (23.5 ppg), is second in rebounding (7.5 rpg) and also third in assists (3.5 apg). 33-year old Kyle Lowry seems to still have plenty of gas in the tank too as he’s averaging 19.6 ppg and handing out 7.6 assists per game. All of the Raptors’ starters are averaging at least 10 points per game and they’re all threats from downtown. Lowry is their “worst” 3-point shooter at 35.7% and their team average is 37.7% (3rd).

And these guys are big-time thieves. They’re 2nd in the NBA in steals with an 8.9 per game average. The Suns can’t afford any sloppy ball handling in this one.

The Suns

Team Stats: OffRtg - 109.9 (17th), Def Rtg - 110.7 (19th), NetRtg - minus-0.9 (15th)

Likely Starting Lineup: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton

Injury Report: Frank Kaminsky (knee) - Out, Deandre Ayton (ankle) - Probable, Dario Saric (ankle) - Probable, Aron Baynes (hip) - Probable, Elie Okobo (ankle) - Game Time Decision.

Team Leaders

  • Points: Devin Booker (26.4)
  • Rebounds: Deandre Ayton (12.0)
  • Assists: Ricky Rubio (8.6)

Even well rested and with several key players returning from injury, the Suns will be facing an uphill battle in this game.

Phoenix will need good scoring games from Booker, Oubre and Ayton tonight as well as some above average contributions from others (especially the bench) to stay in this game. Luckily for the Suns, Toronto’s bench has only been slightly better at putting points on the board than Phoenix’s bench (33.4 ppg/24th vs 31.1 ppg/26th). Both teams tend to rely heavily on their starters which average the 2nd (Toronto) and 6th (Phoenix) most minutes per game.

With Baynes (11.5 ppg) and Saric (9.6 ppg) likely back in the rotation, their contributions off the bench could be a big boost and hopefully allow the starters an extra few minutes of rest during the game. The Suns aren’t one of the better three-point shooting teams but they have on occasion had some great games from beyond the arc. They’ll need to at least shoot a respectable percentage from 3 tonight to hang with the Raptors’ sharpshooters.

The Suns’ defense will also come into play tonight. Ayton’s defensive improvement has been a topic of discussion lately and that new and improved version of himself will need to show up tonight along with a lot of effort on the defensive end by everyone else.

Summary

I honestly believe that the Suns have a chance to get a win tonight. It’s a small chance though and they will need a lot of lucky breaks to pull it off... breaks that they probably won’t get.

Final score... Raptors win 112-102.