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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns need a win vs. Toronto Raptors

Another game on the road trip...

LA Clippers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (20-16) at Toronto Raptors (15-20)

When: 5:30 p.m. AZ Time

Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario (Canada)

Watch: Bally Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Lines: Suns (-2.5), with a 225 O/U


The Phoenix Suns face the Toronto Raptors in the first meeting between the teams this season Friday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario. The game will be televised by Bally Sports Arizona.

This will be the fourth game for the Suns in their six-contest road trip, in which they are 1-2. Phoenix lost to the Washington Wizards Wednesday night, 127-102, as it allowed the Wizards to shoot 47-of-82 (57.3 percent) from the field and get to the free-throw line 28 times. Starters Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis each had 22 points but backup forward Rui Hachimura had a standout game with 30 points on 11-of-13 shooting in 28 minutes off the bench.

The Suns are severely limited since All-Star guard Devin Booker is out for at least four more weeks due to a groin injury, backup guard Landry Shamet is out with Achilles soreness, backup guard Cameron Payne is out with a right foot sprain and opening-day starting power forward Cameron Johnson is still out with a torn meniscus. And of course. Jae Crowder.

Combined with the fact Phoenix is traveling to different states (and now outside the United States) against the Raptors, it is most likely severely fatigued and needs to rely heavily on regular starters available — point guard Chris Paul, small forward Mikal Bridges and center Deandre Ayton — and get extensive contributions from bench players. Backup point guard Duane Washington Jr. had a career-high 26 points in the Suns’ 125-108 against the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday, and he and others will need to step up for their team to win Friday.

Toronto is well-coached by Nick Nurse and has a balanced offense with six players averaging double-figures in scoring: forward Pascal Siakam (26.8 points); forward O.G. Anunoby (18.8 points); guard Fred VanVleet (18.5 points); guard Gary Trent Jr. (16.7 points); forward Scottie Barnes (14.6 points); and forward Chris Boucher (10.3 points).

In his seventh NBA season, Siakam has emerged as one of the best players in the league and is averaging a career-high in points, assists (6.8) and a tie for rebounds (8.5).

Here are some of the notable statistics for each team provided by TeamRankings.

  • Points per game: Phoenix (No. 9, 115.4), Toronto (No. 23, 111.4)
  • Assists per game: Phoenix (No. 4, 27.0), Toronto (No. 26, 22.7)
  • Rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 12, 51.8), Toronto (No. 16, 51.0)
  • Average scoring margin: Phoenix (No. 6, +3.4), Toronto (No. 16, +0.2)
  • Offensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 3), Toronto (No. 12)
  • Team shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 15, 47.0), Toronto (No. 27, 45.1)
  • Effective field goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 14, 54.3), Toronto (No. 29, 50.9)
  • 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 4, 38.4), Toronto (No. 29, 32.8)
  • 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 26, 52.3), Toronto (No. 27, 52.1)
  • Blocks per game: Phoenix (No. 5, 5.5), Toronto (No. 10, 5.0)
  • Steals per game: Phoenix (No. 15, 7.2), Toronto (No. 1, 9.3)
  • Turnovers per game: Phoenix (No. 4, 13.5), Toronto (No. 1, 12.6)
  • Opponent points per game: Phoenix (No. 10, 111.9), Toronto (No. 8, 111.2)
  • Opponent shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 15, 47.1), Toronto (No. 29, 48.9)
  • Opponent effective field-goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 10, 53.4), Toronto (No. 29, 56.4)
  • Opponent 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 18, 36.1), Toronto (No. 16, 35.9)
  • Opponent 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 10, 53.0), Toronto (No. 30, 58.1)
  • Opponent total rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 12, 51.4), Toronto (No. 6, 49.9)

Likely Starting Lineups

Phoenix Suns

G Chris Paul

F Mikal Bridges

F Torrey Craig

C Jock Landale

C Deandre Ayton

Toronto Raptors

F O.G. Anunoby

F Scottie Barnes

F Pascal Siakam

F Juancho Hernangomez

C Christian Koloko

Out/Injured

Phoenix:

  • Devin Booker (groin) is OUT
  • Cam Johnson (right knee) is OUT
  • Landry Shamet (Achilles soreness) is OUT
  • Cameron Payne (right foot strain) is OUT
  • Jae Crowder (chillin at home) is NOT WITH TEAM

Toronto:

  • F Fred VanVleet (back) is OUT
  • F Precious Achiuwa (ankle) is OUT
  • F Otto Porter Jr. (hip) is OUT

Uniform Matchup

Courtesy of lockervision.nba.com

What to Watch For

Toronto is a team that plays positionless basketball, which gives it some advantages offensively (it ranks No. 12 in efficiency) and especially on defense, where it leads the NBA in steals per game (see above) and is a top-10 team in opponent points per game.

However, the Raptors have been inconsistent this season since they started the year 11-9. They lost nine of their next 11 games and have since split their last four contests.

Toronto has been a dangerous team in the past and is led by a great schematical coach with Nurse, who even employed a box-and-one defense on the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals and has the advantage of using multiple wings, including Barnes — the 2021-22 Rookie of the Year — and Anunoby, who is averaging a career-best 18.7 points per game.

Siakam is the Raptors’ best player and has great proficiency as a player who can attack the basket, rebound and create opportunities for his teammates. He has emerged as one of the NBA’s best players, and the Suns will need to contain him, especially since he will be the primary playmaker with VanVleet out.

Head-to-head

The Suns and the Raptors have played 51 times in their history dating back to the 1995-96 season. Phoenix leads the all-time series 32-19, and the Suns have won three of the last four meetings after Toronto won six straight.

Keys to a Suns Win

The Suns are severely limited and will need to exhaust more energy from their players still available, so they must hope a day of rest is enough to do that.

The Raptors rely heavily on their wings and tend to quickly sub out their bigs, which include Koloko — the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year at Arizona last season — and Khem Birch, though Boucher averages 18.0 minutes per game. Backup guards Trent Jr. and Malachi Flynn play heavy minutes off the bench and will be relied upon with VanVleet out for the game.

Bridges will likely guard Siakam, which should somewhat negate his impact. But Toronto has other playmakers that could force the Suns to sub out Landale quickly for matchup purposes. That means Josh Okogie and Damion Lee could be relied upon more defensively to keep the Raptors out of the paint and toward the 3-point line, where they rank second-to-last in the NBA.

Prediction

Will a day of rest help the Suns? They will need it to survive a brutal road trip in which they are without their best player and two big contributors off the bench.

Toronto presents challenges that will force better defensive efforts deep into Phoenix’s rotation, which is a tall task of its own. The Suns could surprise and have another big night from Okogie or Lee to push them to a victory, but it will be very difficult to do so while out of the country.

Phoenix needs to get healthy soon or make a trade so it can find a way to contribute and get closer to 100 percent before the postseason.

Raptors 103, Suns 94

When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube.

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