For most of the night, the Toronto Raptors used their length and athleticism to completely disrupt the Phoenix Suns’ Paul-less offense and frustrate the Suns into making bad decisions.
And then late in the game, the Raptors heavy-trapped Devin Booker and forced the Suns into bad turnovers (one each by Book, Payne and two by Bridges) with their activity on defense.
The game went back and forth, staying very close, until the Raptors went on a 10-point run in just 31 seconds thanks to free throws, a three, and a flagrant foul that turned into five points on one possession. That gave the Raps a 13-point lead late in the third quarter.
But then a crazy two-big bench unit from Monty Williams got the Raptors out of their rhythm and the Suns began to get back into it. They played with what on this night for the Suns is best called ‘uncommon’ energy, and suddenly the Suns had it within 4 when Book came back in, 100-96, with over 6 minutes to play.
The Suns tied the game two minutes later, 104-104, on the energy of Biyombo and the crowd was going nuts. That’s a 20-6 run to start the fourth quarter, folks!
After a second Gary Trent Jr. flailing three-point attempt that was called an offensive foul — and a second knock to the head of Cameron Payne on defense — and upgraded to a flagrant foul, the Suns had a lead (105-104) and the ball with 4 minutes left.
Teams traded shots for a bit after that, and then the Raptors aggressive trapping of Devin Booker every time down with super-long athletes forced turnovers and missed shots. Three steals and transition layups became a 113-107 Raptors lead with 1:30 to go.
A pair of free throws by Payne and a three by Book brought the Suns within one, but Book missed his next three and Mikal Bridges threw it away again — two more free throws for the Raps, putting them up 115-112 with 17.5 left.
Book missed another three, this one off the back of the rim, and couldn’t secure the offensive rebound.
Suns lose 117-112.
Like most of the Suns losses this calendar year (all half dozen), they lost on rebounding and/or the opponent hitting lots of threes. This time, they were outrebounded by 8 and the Raps made 14 threes (43% of their attempts).
Suns: Chris Paul (wrist), Cameron Johnson (thigh), Frank Kaminsky (knee), Dario Saric (knee) all OUT
Raptors: OG Anunoby (finger), Malachi Flynn (hamstring) both OUT
The Suns came out a bit off, missing their first three shots before Jae Crowder got an and-one. And then Crowder made one of the Suns patented right-middy shots of his own, this one on the catch going away from the basket.
The Raptors missed a bunch of shots after their first two, but their penchant for going after offensive rebounds (3rd in league in second-chance points) served them well. Their players are long and active, and they’d rather go for the o-board than get back on D in transition.
On the other hand, they love transition offense (3rd in league) and got out on defensive rebounds whenever they could, making it so the Suns couldn’t set up their defense before a shot attempt. Any better shooting on their part, and they’d have the lead.
Suns up 13-8 after half a quarter, thanks to their defense (forcing four early turnovers, three on VanVleet) and Deandre Ayton making every shot he took.
Toronto tied the game 18-18 on yet another second-chance opportunity, then took the lead in transition off a missed shot. The Suns really need to manage those boards on both ends. The Raptors have a ton of length and rim protection across the whole lineup, and you’ve got to be crisp on offense. Once they get the rebound, they’re gone.
The Raps lead was soon 23-18 before Aaron Holiday finally got a Suns shot to fall. Once the subs came in, the Suns offense went into a real bad funk against the Raptors active, long defenders. They mixed trapping with zone and really got the Suns out of any rhythm.
After one quarter, the Suns got down 30-24 after Booker shot a lazy pass that was intercepted and turned into a three-pointer by Pascal Siakam. The Suns are 1-10 on threes, while the Raptors are only 2-9.
In the second quarter, JaVale McGee brought some energy with rim protection and rebounding effort among the Raptors flurry of length, and Cameron Payne made a pair of threes to get the Suns back within a point before his driving reverse layup gave the Suns their first lead since early in the second quarter, 34-33. When McGee left, he got a standing ovation from some fans for his 4 blocks and 5 rebounds.
The Raptors just kept roaring — using their transition offense and second chance points JUST LIKE THE SCOUTING REPORT SAYS. The Suns just couldn’t contain their activity and length up and down the lineup.
At halftime, the Suns were down 56-52. Why? Because they’re getting outrebounded (+11), outshot (+8 attempts, +1 on threes), outscored on second-chance points (+11), outscored at free throw line (+5) and outscored off turnovers (+3). The game was only close because the Raptors made just 39% of their shots overall.
To win this game, Suns are going to have to lock down their offense (no turnovers), get those defensive rebounds and make a bunch more threes. In short, a lot more focused energy than they showed first half.
Suns started the second half playing harder for sure, forcing a shot-clock violation and then tying the game on a Deandre Ayton put-back (the Suns first second-chance points of the game), then took the lead for a moment on Jae Crowder’s three.
But Gary Trent Jr. stayed hotter than hot, draining his 6th three pointer (in 8 tries, including a half-court heave) to give him 26 points and the Raptors of 69-65 lead with half the quarter gone.
Suns are gonna have to get a lead here soon before the bench comes in — they were a combined 1-9 from the field in the first half (clouded by McGee’s spirited defensive effort).
The Suns almost took the lead, but Crowder missed a three at 69-69 then the Raptors efforted their way into a 78-71 lead before the Suns knew it. Enter some of the Suns the bench.
That’s when Booker lost his cool. He was hot from a no-call on Jar Crowder, then got even hotter on a no-call on himself and ripped down Precious Achiuwa on the fast break. Refs reviewed the play — where Booker ripped his arm and Torrey Craig hit the guy’s head — and Booker was called for a flagrant ONE.
Now the Raps were up 83-71 with the Raps nailing a five-point play on that flagrant (Achiuwa made both FTs and FVV made a three).
This one’s not looking good folks. Raps are playing great and the Suns are... not.
The Raptors finished the quarter with 40 points, everything going right, including making their last two threes. In fact, they made 7 of 9 threes in that quarter.
Suns down 96-82 after three quarters.
Monty Williams started the fourth quarter with more size — playing both Bismack Biyombo and JaVale McGee together — but it went... okay. Just trying something new to disrupt the disruptive Raps.
A scrappy 8-2 Suns run with that group (Payne, Shamet, Bridges and the bigs) caused Raptors head coach Nick Nurse to call what I think was his first ‘stop their momentum’ timeout of the night.
Suns back within 96-90 with 9:05 to play. Five minutes later, the Suns tied the game up, 102-102 on a 20-6 run.
Scroll back to the top for the fourth quarter notes.