Following one of the most embarrassing weekends for the Suns, which put the proverbial nail in the coffin of their slim playoff hopes, how were they going to respond?
Going against the defending champions, the energy was up to start this one off. Phoenix actually raced out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter before Toronto clawed back to make it 68-61 at halftime.
In the second half, Toronto flipped the switch. Not only did they take the lead, but their stars started to catch fire offensively. We had ourselves a game once business picked up on both ends of the floor.
Somehow, someway, the Suns blew a 17-point lead losing this one 123-114. Honestly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise as it’s been the consistent them of the 2019-20 campaign. Even though it’s against the defending champion Raptors, this falls into another bad loss under the circumstances.
You know the drill by now with my recap format, Bright Side readers. I will break down the positives (Thumbs Up) and negatives (Thumbs Down) from the latest Suns loss. Let’s dive into it all right now.
Thumbs Up: Mikal Bridges / Cam Johnson Duo
If this is any indication of what’s to come in the future, I’ll gladly take more of this from the Suns’ wing duo. Both Bridges and Johnson got hot together, which led to solid minutes whenever both shared the floor.
Bridges finished with 12 points and 3 assists ,while Johnson chipped in 21 points.
Over the final stretch of the season, let’s see Bridges and Johnson share the floor even more with Kelly Oubre Jr.’s absence. If not for Saric’s solid game, I might’ve even suggested starting this pairing together alongside Ayton.
Bridges and Johnson counter each other’s strengths beautifully. With Bridges’ 3-and-D potential plus Johnson’s sharpshooting, lots of promise is easily seen playing this duo together.
Thumbs Down: Boxing Out
Someone needs to wake up in this area. This has become a major issue for the Suns recently, and a lot of it comes down to focus and effort. There’s no reason for Raptors reserve big Chris Boucher to gobble up five offensive rebounds in only eight minutes.
Outside of Boucher, Toronto didn’t do much damage. However, this continues to be a teaching moment when it shouldn’t be. Four consecutive games against Los Angeles (Clippers), Detroit, Golden State, and Toronto now have seen this issue pop up consistently.
Thumbs Up: Dario Saric
Even though Saric saw his minutes dwindle for some reason in the second quarter, mainly due to Cameron Johnson catching fire from beyond the arc, his impact early was crucial. Saric scored 13 points while adding two assists in the first quarter going 5-of-6 shooting.
It’s been a long time coming for Saric to have a solid outing, especially one where he was effective early. Has it been a few weeks, maybe even over a month since we saw the last solid Saric performance?
Toronto’s small-ball lineup was no match for the Saric/Ayton frontcourt, which took advantage of their size early and often.
The question for Saric now is if this will maintain past tonight. His inconsistent play has plagued him all season long.
I will say, on a night like this, Suns head coach Monty Williams should’ve given Saric way more minutes when he’s in a rhythm. Sure, Toronto was playing small, but why not continue to abuse them in the post with Saric and Ayton? Williams went to him more later in the second half, but the point still stands.
Thumbs Down: Containing Siakam/Lowry Consistently
Toronto’s lineup not only was small tonight, but also low on bodies with injuries ravaging their roster right now. So, that really only meant contain Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry. If that happens, Phoenix wins this one going away. It was going that way in the second quarter when Lowry exited due to an injury, plus Ayton doing well on Siakam, but the dam finally broke in the third quarter.
Not only did Siakam and Lowry have their way against Phoenix, but there seemed to be no answer once Toronto figured out how to score consistently. Obviously both Siakam and Lowry are star-quality players, so once the switch flipped trouble was brewing.