Game Thread: Raptors (5-4) at Suns (8-2)

Suns 101, Raptors 100





If you’re a fan of old school, grind-it-out basketball, don’t even turn on tonight’s Suns-Raptors game. But if you prefer arena basketball and points galore, man you’re in for a fun one.

What the Raptors have done in the early going this season is actually quite difficult to accomplish: they lead the NBA in offensive efficiency (113.7 points per 100 possessions) and rank dead last in defensive efficiency (yielding 112.5 pp100).

Are we sure Mike D’Antoni isn’t secretly coaching this squad from New York?

By comparison, the Suns are downright balanced, ranking third in offensive efficiency (110.9 pp100) and No. 22 in defensive efficiency (107.0 pp100). The Suns still lead the league in true shooting percentage (58.4 percent) with the Raps right on their heels in second at 58.2 percent.

First one to 120 wins? Or should I say 130?

The Raptors are being molded by Bryan Colangelo, who of course was the architect of the 2004-05 Suns squad that many feel the current version of the Suns resemble.

“This team is a lot like us,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told The Arizona Republic. “It’s almost a mirror image of what we are. … They do a lot of the things we do.”

The Raptors have a superstar big with an elite inside-outside game in Chris Bosh playing the Amare role, a three-point shooting big in Andrea Bargnani playing Channing Frye’s role, a playmaking small forward in Hedo Turkoglu resembling Grant Hill and a point guard in Jose Calderon who is the closest thing this squad has to Steve Nash, although that of course is a ridiculous comparison.

We all know Bosh is a stud, but Bargnani has got to be the biggest surprise of the early going for Toronto. The former No. 1 overall pick increased his scoring output from 10.2 points per game to 15.4 ppg last season, and he’s increased that in a big way in the early going this year to 19.6 ppg.

Andrea (still sounds weird calling an NBA center that) is attempting five threes a game and hitting 46.7 percent of them, knocking them down at a better clip than Channing (43.3 percent).

If they end up matching up it will be really interesting to see how they handle each other. Both players generally have a huge advantage going up against a big unaccustomed to guarding an opponent with three-point range. Although both guys are prolific long range bombers themselves, they still don’t guard too many guys like each other. Theoretically, though, they both have the agility to defend the three.

The Amare-Bosh matchup will be intriguing as well, especially for those around the league looking ahead to the Summer of 2010. For years it seems there’s been a lot of talk around who’s the best 2010 big man, and in this one both guys have a chance to prove their point.

All in all, the Suns have won their past 10 meetings against Toronto, their longest active win streak against one team, and have averaged 118.2 points per game during that stretch. The Raptors last won in Phoenix in February 2004 when Nash was still a Maverick.

The betting line in Vegas for this over-under is right now set at 232. If I were a betting man, I’d have to go with the over.

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