Preview: Phoenix Suns (28-27) at Toronto Raptors (16-42)

Phoenix Suns 110, Toronto Raptors 92




PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have a fantastic opportunity in front of them, but only if they seize it.

With so much trade turmoil directly above them in the standing and a deal for Aaron Brooks that if nothing else should ensure their bench packs some punch the rest of the season, a playoff spot has never looked so near for the Suns.

But the Suns don’t yet need to scoreboard watch, they just need to take care of their own business and that starts tonight in Toronto as they open a six-game road trip that could either cement their status as playoff contenders or make things look pretty grim.

“This road trip will tell us a lot about where we’re going to be at,” Jared Dudley said.

The six-game trip includes four winnable games and two very losable games in Boston and Oklahoma City. They must beat at least three of the four teams they should to ensure a split, and they should make 4-2 their goal for this crucial trip.

The Suns seemed to be on their way to a season-changing road trip last time they went back East, but after winning their first three to extend their winning streak to five, the Suns stumbled during their last two to make the trip look rather mediocre at 3-2.

The Suns have a chance to start out strong on the road once again with games at Toronto, Indiana and New Jersey to start the trip.

“This is going to be a very important trip for us,” Steve Nash said. “We’re going out on the road where we have very little room for error. We’ve got to come out on the road and play really well, so this trip’s going to be defining.”

The Suns must continue their strong play on the defensive end of late that has made them one of the better defensive field-goal percentage teams in the NBA after starting out the year as the worst. But in the opening leg of this trip they may be able to flat-out outscore the Raptors.

Only that D-League team in Cleveland possesses a worse defense than Toronto with the Raps yielding 109.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s a huge problem when they boast just the 21st-best offense in the league in terms of efficiency. With those kind of efficiency number it’s no surprise that this team lost 13 in a row last month to drop into a tie with Washington for the worst team in the East outside of Cleveland. The Raptors then lost five of six before inexplicably beating the Bulls on Wednesday.

Steve Nash always tears up the team from his native land, and the Suns realize how important it is to start their road trip off right in what should be the easiest game of their six-game journey.

“We know if we want to get to the playoffs we’ve got to come out and have a great road trip,” Dudley said.

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