When: 7:00 PM AZ Time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
The last time the Suns faced the Toronto Raptors this season, they lost 113-104 up across the border in Toronto. The Suns were without Devin Booker, and the Raps were without Fred VanVleet. Tonight, Book (groin) is still out while the Raps will be missing O.G. Anunoby (wrist).
The Suns have won 5 of their last 6 games, much of that keyed by the return of Cameron Johnson (5 of those games) and Chris Paul (4 of them) to what was an epically depleted roster due to injuries. Johnson is averaging 17.6 points, shooting 53% FG and 51% 3s, along with 5.4 rebounds. Paul is putting up All-Star level numbers again, with 22.3 points, shooting 55% FG and 43% 3s, along with 10.8 assists, 6 rebounds and 1.3 steals.
The Raptors have won 3 of their last 4 games, including road wins over the Kings and Blazers, thanks to big contributions from their stars Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, along with eye opening contirbutions from Precious Achiuwa (18.8 points and 10 rebounds in those games).
Tonight’s game will be the last matchup between the Raptors and Suns this season. But because there’s a trade deadline in 10 days and there’s rumblings of the Suns and Raptors talking, it’s possible that someone you see in a Raps uni tonight might be in a Suns uni next week. Stay tuned!
Probable Starting Lineups
Suns: Devin Booker (groin), Cam Payne (foot), Landry Shamet (hip), Jae Crowder (meeting with Bucks) are all OUT
Raptors: O.G. Anunoby (wrist), Otto Porter Jr. (toe surgery) are OUT.
- Offense: 11th (114.0 points per 100 possessions)
- Defense: 19th (113.7)
- Net Rating: tied-15th (+0.3)
The Raps have had an interesting season so far. Their actual won-loss record is 23-28 (12th place in the East), but according to basketball-reference.com their ‘expected’ won-loss should be 27-24, which would have them in playoff position. No wonder they can’t decide if they are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
Toronto has a number of nice pieces for a winning team, and they went 48-34 last year with a pair of stars — Fred VanVleet made the 2022 All-Star team and Pascal Siakam is a one-time All-Star and 2-time All-NBA forward — and the reigning Rookie of the Year, Scotty Barnes. FVV and Siakam both know what it takes to win a championship, having been supporting players on the 2019 Champs (Kawhi and Kyle Lowry were the team leaders that year). Plus, they have a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate in O.G. Anunoby ready to become their next star.
Seems like a team on the rise, right? Any team with a core of FVV, Pascal, O.G. and Scotty Barnes, along with long-range shooter Gary Trent Jr. can beat anyone. With their long arms up and down the lineup, they are #1 in steals this season and generate a great deal of their offense with fast breaks off live-ball steals.
Yet, they are just 23-28 this year and have some major problems that this core cannot address: shooting and rebounding.
One of the worst shooting teams in the league: the Raps are 28th in overall FG%, 28th in three-point %, 29th in Effective FG% and 28th in True Shooting %. The latter two use a formula to give extra credit for three point makes and free throws.
Poor defensive rebounding: they are dead last in defensive rebounding. Since they try constantly for steals to initiate breakaways - #1 in steals, a big part of their offense - they don’t focus on securing the rebound.
Poor shot deterance: they are also 28th in opponent field goal % allowed and 29th in three-point % allowed, meaning when they don’t get the steal they either give up a made shot or give up the offensive board for a second-chance make.
So now you can see why they are facing a conundrum ahead of the trade deadline. Can you add shooting and rebounding without breaking up the core? Or do you need to move 1-2 pieces of the current core to balance out the team for better success.
Reportedly, the Raps — with Massai Ujiri at the helm — have incredibly high asking prices of their core players and are waiting for someone to make a Gobert-like offer for one of them (lots of first round picks and young players). The game of chicken has commenced.
The Suns have been linked to all of these players by one insider or another, so keep an eye on all the Raps tonight (though O.G. is out with a wrist injury). There’s at least a small chance one of them will be in purple and orange next weekend.
Just take a look around Bright Side the last couple days for all the good Suns updates. You’ll see the links listed below this article. Chris Paul is playing like his All-Star self, Mikal Bridges has leveled up, Cameron Johnson looks really good and the team has won 5 of their last 6 games.
The best part of tonight’s game is that most of the upper deck will be filled with about 3,000 of OUR underprivileged kids to whom we’ve donated tickets this year as part of Bright Side Night. :)
In total, Bright Side is donating over 7,800 tickets across 8 games this spring to deserving, underprivileged kids in the valley metro area. I just can’t put into words how grateful I am for your generosity, Bright Siders. You’re the t*ts.
It’s Bright Side Night, so of COURSE the Suns need to win this game! Over the years, the Suns have won more games than they’ve lost on Bright Side Night and that’s a blessing. Let’s get another one!
I’ll predict Suns win, 117-107.