Undermanned Raptors Outwork Suns, Halt Losing Skid
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
The Toronto Raptors snapped their three-game losing streak, rallying to defeat the Phoenix Suns 123-114 Tuesday night at the Talking Stick Resort Centre in Phoenix.
Both teams came into this one having lost their last three games, the Raptors’ latest a 133-118 setback at the hands of the Denver Nuggets last Sunday at the Pepsi Centre in Denver.
The Raptors continue to be plagued by injuries, with Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet all forced to sit tonight’s game out. Ibaka and VanVleet were both in the lineup when the teams squared off February 21st in Toronto, a 118-101 Raptors victory.
While the Suns were plagued by poor shooting in Toronto, it was a different story from the outset on this night. Phoenix came out of the gate on fire, shooting over 68% from the field and hitting four threes to jump out to a 39-30 first quarter lead. Forward Dario Saric led the Suns with 13 first quarter points. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam kept the Raptors close, with twelve and nine points respectively.
Phoenix led by as many as seventeen points just over three minutes into the second quarter but the Raptors rallied behind Chris Boucher, the lanky forward scoring 11 points and adding seven rebounds off the bench during the period. The Raptors closed the gap to three but the Suns continued to hit from distance and enjoyed a 68-61 advantage at the break.
Giving up sixty-eight points in the first half must not have gone over very well in the Raptors dressing room for the third quarter was a different story. The Raptors rallied, a block by Boucher springing OG Anunoby in transition, his alley-oop resulting in a thunderous slam by Siakam to give the Raps a 79-78 lead just over five minutes into the period. Siakam had twelve points in the quarter and the Raptors held the Suns to just 18 points to take an 87-86 lead into the final frame.
The Suns fought back and jumped out to a 100-94 lead just four minutes into the fourth, but after a Nick Nurse timeout the Raptors promptly went on an 11-2 run to lead by three with six minutes left. Toronto led by five with 2:50 remaining but a driving layup by the Suns Cameron Johnson and two free throws by point guard Ricky Rubio brought the Suns within a point, 114-113. But a dagger three by Boucher gave the Raps a 117-113 lead with 2:06 left and from there, the Suns could get no closer, two free throws by Boucher and a running slam by Norman Powell sealing the victory.
Siakam rebounded from a tough shooting night in Denver to finish with 33 points on 12 of 20 shooting and five of nine from distance in a gruelling 43 minutes of action. Boucher was outstanding at both ends of the floor, posting a double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Lowry had 28 points and six helpers and Norman Powell had 26 points to round out the Raptors attack. The Suns had seven players in double figures, including Devin Booker with 22 points and Johnson, who chipped in with 21.
With the win, the Raptors remain in second place in the Eastern Conference, extending their lead over the third place Boston Celtics to one and half games while remaining a distant nine games games behind the first place Milwaukee Bucks.
Tonight’s game marked the second of a five game Western Conference swing for the Raptors, their longest road trip of the season. The Raps are off to San Francisco to take on the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night and wrap up the trip with back to back games against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday and Utah Jazz on Monday.