The Phoenix Suns wrap up a six game road trip with a skirmish against the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors. Can the Suns stretch their winning streak to five and head home on a positive note?
When: Monday, November 24, 2014, 5:30 PM local time (7:30 EST)
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Watch/Listen: TV: FOX Sports Arizona Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
The Suns beat the Raptors 121-113 in Toronto on March 16, 2014. Sometimes results from previous seasons don't have much bearing, but the Raptors return all five starters and the Suns return eight of the ten players who participated in that game. Phoenix controlled the fourth quarter of the game, leading by double digits for the better part of it and never letting the Raptors get closer than eight points.
The Suns bench was big time in the victory, with Markieff Morris recording a double-double (16 points and 14 rebounds) and Gerald "the human torch" Green punishing Toronto's defense to the tune of 28 points with five three pointers. Kyle Lowry had 28 points and 13 assists in a losing effort.
Phoenix also beat Toronto 106-97 on December 6, 2013, giving them a 2-0 season series sweep.
Phoenix Suns: 9-5
Points per game: 105.3 (4th) Points against: 102.1 (23rd)
ORtg: 107.8 (11th) DRtg: 104.5 (11th)
Full team statistics.
The Suns have gotten healthy on the road by eating a steady diet of crappy Eastern Conference opponents. The combined records of Phoenix's last four foes is an ignominious 12-39. That's ridiculous.
The Suns' next adversary, the Toronto Raptors, has just one less victory (11) than those four teams combined. Double ridiculous.
After scraping out a couple tough victories to start their East coast trip life has been easier for the Suns in their last two games. Gerald Green scored 18 points in the first half against Indiana and the Suns pulled away in the third quarter to lay a savage beating (106-83) on a depleted Pacers team in their last game on Saturday night.
Phoenix is still playing without a definitive alpha, with five players averaging between 13.4 and 15.4 points per game. The Suns have had a different leading scorer in each of their last four victories. A recurring theme has been materializing, though, with Gerald Green and Isaiah Thomas doing heavy lifting off the bench. The duo is by far the most prolific in per minute scoring on the team, providing instant offense as reserves.
Toronto Raptors: 11-2
Points per game: 106.9 (2nd) Points against: 94.7 (6th)
ORtg: 114.1 (2nd) DRtg: 101.0 (5th)
Full team statistics.
The Raptors are one of the more surprising teams in the league and are off to their best start in franchise history. The team returned a core that went 48-34 last season and appears to be much improved. All of this leads to the question...
How good is Toronto?
While the Raptors have benefited from a home heavy schedule to start the season, going 8-1 in nine home games, they are laying waste to their opponents. Toronto is +12.2 in point differential and have beaten seven teams by double digits. Currently, the team is in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating. While Toronto is 7-0 against sub .500 opponents, the team also has victories against the Washington Wizards (9-3, second in the Eastern Conference) and Memphis Grizzlies (12-2, first in the Western Conference).
Toronto's most recent victim was the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers, who squandered an 18 point first quarter lead on the way to getting bulldozed by the Raptors, 110-93. Louis Williams, yes the Louis Williams, exploded for 36 points off the bench in the contest.
DeMar DeRozan leads the Raptors in scoring with 20.0 points per game, while Kyle Lowry is averaging 18.8 to go along with a team high 6.0 assists a game.
What To Watch For:
The routinely erratic contributions the Suns have been receiving across the board make it pretty hard to peg any individual battles to keep an eye on. The team seems to go nine deep with players that could disappear or dominate on a nightly basis.
- Will Alex Len continue to make an impact? He continues to show new wrinkles that adumbrate auspiciously for the future.
- Will Goran Dragic bust out of a nearly season long funk that has seen him look painfully average? The Dragon has been mostly sputtering smoke, with a paltry average of 3.1 assists and only two 20 point performances through 14 games. Last season Goran scored 20+ 37 times out of 76 games.
The Final Word(s):
I like this matchup for the Suns.
Phoenix is already 4-1 on this road trip, taking care of the teams they should beat. A win against Toronto would be whipped topping on the pumpkin pie.
I like Green and/or Thomas to upstage Louis Williams and propel the Suns to victory, 108-101.