The game seemed to be the Phoenix Suns’ to lose.
After it trailed by double digits multiple points in the third quarter and shot itself in the proverbial foot with 22 turnovers through three quarters, Phoenix found a way to take the lead in the fourth quarter against the Toronto Raptors, 99-97, after a steal from starting point guard Chris Paul and a layup in transition from starting forward Mikal Bridges.
It gave Phoenix momentum with 4:41 to play in a game it desperately needed to win. The Suns had lost four of five contests after a three-game winning streak that was preceded by a five-game losing skid, and with All-Star guard Devin Booker out for the next month due to a groin injury, they needed to find positivity in the second half of a six-game road trip.
But that was the last sign of hope from the Suns in their 113-104 loss to the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario Friday night. Phoenix did not have a field goal for the remainder of the game while Toronto went on an 14-3 run to secure its victory.
Phoenix hung around often against the Raptors. It trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter before it went on a 10-0 run to take the lead in the second. The Suns then succumbed to a 14-2 Raptors run in the period but closed the half strong with a 12-2 spurt, which gave them a chance to come back even though they had 14 first-half turnovers.
But with two of their backup guards, Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet, also out due to injury, the Suns did not have a reliable way to take care of the basketball. They committed a season-high 25 turnovers, which included seven in the third quarter and four in the fourth.
Even with those struggles, the Suns found a way to come back in the fourth quarter after they trailed by seven points after the third quarter. Bridges’ layup preceded a 22-13 run for Phoenix that included resiliency to tie the game after they kept close through three quarters.
But at the end, the Suns’ mistakes haunted them too much. Raptors forward Scottie Barnes hit a 3-pointer to give his team a 104-101 lead with 3:16 left and after an eight-second violation for Phoenix, Toronto center and former University of Arizona star Christian Koloko hit a corner 3-pointer that gave the Raptors a 107-101 lead with 1:49 left that effectively sealed the game.
Christian Koloko drains the HUGE triple to secure the Raptors W pic.twitter.com/VQjMXSgA7D— Raptors Nation (@RaptorsNationCP) December 31, 2022
Toronto was led by guard Gary Trent Jr., who was inserted into the starting lineup with Fred VanVleet out due to injury and had 35 points on 11-of-22 shooting with five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Trent Jr. also had 42 points in the second meeting between the Suns and Raptors last season.
Bridges led the Suns with 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting with two rebounds and two assists. Paul had 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting with 12 assists and a steal, but he had six turnovers.
Here is how the rest of the game unfolded.
As described above, it was a tough one for the Suns.
Here were the final stats for the game.
The Suns quickly fell in a double-digit deficit to start the third quarter, which put them in a hole the rest of the period.
Toronto started the second half on a 13-4 run that created separation Phoenix could not make up for. The Suns cut the Raptors’ lead to as few as five points after a 3-pointer from Wainwright with 3:15 left to go in the quarter but that was as close as they drew.
Trent Jr. had 18 of the Raptors’ 33 points in the third quarter and had 29 total points after three quarters. The Raptors had shot 30-of-64 from the field to this point (9-of-28 from 3-point range) and made 17-of-18 free-throw attempts.
What was the biggest separation to this point? The Suns had 21 turnovers compared to Toronto’s eight. Phoenix had seven turnovers in the third quarter that prevented it from making a bigger run after it fell behind early.
The Suns went on a 10-0 run to start the second quarter, which gave them a big boost early in the period.
Paul was particularly impressive with three mid-range shots in the period in which he pulled back to set his feet and hit pretty sky-high shots.
Phoenix took a 37-35 lead after a 3-pointer from backup forward Ish Wainwright but Toronto then responded with a 14-2 run that gave it the lead.
However, the Suns did not fold. Bridges hit a contested shot and the paint and was fouled, quickly cutting Toronto’s lead to seven.
Paul then had a four-point play that cut the Suns’ deficit to one possession, and another free throw from Paul cut the Raptors’ lead to just two.
Toronto forward Chris Boucher responded with a dunk and Bridges scored a shot around the rim and two free throws to tie the game. Siakam hit a shot inside the arc in the Raptors’ final first-half possession and then Craig missed a 3-pointer after great ball movement from the Suns as the first-half buzzer sounded.
Here were the first half stats for both teams.
The Suns needed to get off to a fast start against the Raptors, and they did a decent job.
Phoenix trailed 33-24 after the first quarter, when it shot 10-of-15 from the field (3-of-5 from 3-point range) and assisted nine of those shots. However, it also had eight turnovers.
Starting forward Torrey Craig had 10 of the Suns’ first 20 points while shooting 4-of-4 from the field (2-of-2 from 3-point range).
The Suns employed a zone defense to preserve some energy and wall off Toronto’s wings, who tend to attack the paint, create opportunities in the paint and at the free-throw line. The Raptors shot 10-of-22 from the field and 5-of-12 from 3-point range, a solid number for them since they rated No. 29 in the NBA in 3-point percentage (32.8) entering Friday’s game.
Toronto made all eight of its attempts at the free-throw line and was led by Siakam, who had nine points, three assists and two rebounds.