When: Friday, at 4:30 p.m. AZ Time **EARLY START**
Where: Tampa, Florida
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM Radio
The Suns stick around the panhandle state for their third road game this week after playing the Heat in Miami and Magic in Orlando. Now they play the transplanted Raptors up the road in Tampa.
Why Tampa? Because COVID. With travel restricted between borders, the Raptors relocated for the entire 2020-21 season to an empty arena in Tampa, Florida. I feel sorry for the Raps, basically being relegated to a 72-road-game schedule this year, but it is what it is.
Probable Starting Lineups
They didn’t actually trade away Kyle Lowry after all.
But they DID trade their third leading scorer, Normal Powell (19.6 PPG), to the Blazers for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood, who probably will not be available for the Suns game today.
On the down side, the Raptors are in a transition period between their recent championship team and their next contender. They initially survived the loss of Finals starters Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka with a strong playoff push into the second round last October, but are now paying the price this year with an 18-26 record and a real chance they won’t see the playoffs at all.
On the plus side, they still have a core of players in their primes, including Fred VanVleet (26 years old), Pascal Siakam (26) and OG Anunoby (23). Siakam has made an All-Star game, and FVV is right on the edge of that threshold. And they are still led by one of the best leaders in the game in Kyle Lowry.
They are definitely scuffling lately, losers of 11 of their last 13 games due to a COVID protocols/contact tracing hit.
The Raptors are indeed back to healthy now, and won their last game by 24 points over the vaunted Nuggets. Siakam, VanVleet, Powell and Anunoby all scored 19+ points in a 135-111 win on Wednesday, with Kyle Lowry having a whopping +42 plus/minus despite scoring only 8 points.
In their last-second Wednesday loss, the Suns broke a seven-game road winning streak, but are still a league-best 14-6 on the road. No other team has as few as six losses at this point on the road, and only two teams have more road wins (Jazz and Clippers are 15-10 and 15-9 respectively).
The Suns usually come back strong after a loss, not having lost consecutive games in two months, but they are testing that streak mightily with another silly loss to a bottom feeding team. The Suns now have almost twice as many losses to the league’s worst teams (nine) than to the league’s best (five).
The question is: who do the Suns think the Raptors are? A bad team or a good team?
Other player news: Abdel Nader is still questionable due to a sore knee, and Cam Johnson is getting back to good after a bout with COVID. He told media that due to asthma he was extra-careful on his handling of the virus and return to basketball activities.
The Suns beat a healthy Raptors squad in Phoenix earlier this year, 123-115. A balanced Suns squad had seven different players in double figures, and made an eye-popping 21 of 40 three pointers to get close to a franchise high in three-point makes.
I think the Suns will take the Raptors seriously and show the same focus they had against the Miami Heat earlier this week.
I see the Suns winning this game by 10-plus points.