Toronto Raptors 101, Phoenix Suns 97 -- Getting back in the fight

Amir Johnson helped lead the Toronto Raptors to a hard-fought 101-97 win over the Phoenix Suns. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

Amir Johnson helped lead the Toronto Raptors to a hard-fought 101-97 win over the Phoenix Suns. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

After an abysmal loss to the Pistons Wednesday night that left everyone wondering how the team would respond, the Phoenix Suns fought to the bitter end tonight in Toronto. Though they fell 101-97 to the Raptors, Suns fans can breathe a sigh of relief that the 40-point shellacking Phoenix received earlier this week seems to have left the squad no worse for the wear mentally. The Suns worked incredibly hard throughout and played much better basketball from start to finish.

I don’t want to gloss over the fact that Phoenix lost to an Eastern Conference team that had only three wins coming into tonight’s game. The Raptors are a very young team with a great deal of potential, but they are definitely a team the Suns can and should beat. The truth behind the loss is that it’s never easy to win on the road in the NBA, and the Suns are weary after their fourth road game in six days.

The story from this game is not the loss. It is the change in character for the Suns, who looked like two completely different teams against Detroit and Toronto. The team played with no heart and no effort two nights ago. Tonight they had both in spades.

Phoenix was much improved offensively. Marcin Gortat actively looked for his shot and was efficient from the field. Against physical front lines like those from Utah and Detroit, Gortat has been out-worked, out-muscled, and completely lost. But against the Great White North — Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza, and Jonas Valanciunas — Gortat held his own. His biggest improvement was his face-up after the catch. Gortat is not a great back-to-the-basket scorer. He’s most potent when facing the basket. That position allows him to use his agility to get other seven-footers with one dribble or shoot over the top of smaller defenders. His jumper looked solid tonight, and he got some easy baskets underneath. Though he’s still not back to his early season double-double form, Marcin can build on performances like tonight’s.

Joining Gortat on the righted ship was Michael Beasley. Beasley made more shots than he missed (4-of-7) and dished out six assists on the night. The biggest difference in his performance was where he caught the ball. When he catches out beyond the arc, Beasley is not an effective scorer. But tonight, he continually received the ball inside of 20 feet and was quite productive. He penetrated, finished around the basket, and found teammates left open by rotating defenders. The more the Suns can get Michael the ball inside the arc, the more successful both he and the team will be.

The last of the big improvements was Jared Dudley, who looked much sharper shooting the ball in this game (14 pts, 5-6 FG, 2-3 3-pt.) He’s still not playing with the confidence he had last year, but if his shots keep falling, he could regain his form in the near future. For now, he has to continue to adjust to the playing style of this year’s roster.

Though the Raptors aren’t much better defensively than the Suns, Phoenix should still be proud of its efficiency and assist rate. The Suns shot 48.1 percent from the field and 17-of-19 from the charity stripe. They also recorded 28 assists on 37 made baskets, one of the highest rates by any team this season. Their ball movement and cutting were light years better in this game. Dragic kept the ball in his hands and initiated the offense from the top of the key instead of passing to the wing and cutting away. This approach encouraged quick passing instead of isolation and led to open shots and easy buckets. It also kept the Suns from falling behind by double digits like they have done so frequently this year.

Defensively the Suns looked better in this game (though still not great). Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors’ second-leading scorer, was held to just four points on four shots. It was clear the Suns were keying on the big man, trying to make life difficult for him every time he touched the ball. Unfortunately for them, the Suns’ lack of athleticism was their undoing once again.

DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson combined for 39 points and were a step faster than every defender the Suns put on them. Late in the game, Phoenix started overloading defensively by bringing multiple help defenders to the ball side of the court. This helped slow the turnstile in the paint, but it left the Suns vulnerable to kick outs. The Raptors made five long jumpers in the final 17 minutes, including three from beyond the arc. Those shots helped Toronto keep pace in this back-and-forth game. The Suns are worst in the NBA in 3-point percentage allowed, a stat that won’t change any time soon unless Phoenix undergoes a major overhaul in defensive scheme.

This game was incredibly close throughout and came down to plays at the end of quarters. The Raptors got three points as the buzzer sounded to end the second (a Kyle Lowry 3-pointer) and third (a ridiculous And-1 continuation by DeRozan). If this game were a boxing match, those plays were the Raptors stealing a round the Suns had dominated. In the final moments, the Suns couldn’t do the same, missing shots on their final two possession which could have tied the game or given Phoenix the lead.

Both sides fought valiantly. Toronto just landed a few more punches. The NBA season is an 82-round bout. The Suns came out swinging in this matchup, but lost on points. If they continue to fight this hard, however, the W’s will come.

Tags: Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap Toronto Raptors

  • Will

    Can’t believe Gentry calling two consecutive plays for the cold Scola in the final 2 minutes of the game. If you’re telling me that “throw the ball into the post to Scola” is the best play you can come up with TWICE when you have a chance to draw up a play, you might have to find a new specialty.

    Also, why was Beasley sitting on the bench in crunch time? Unbelievable.

  • Keith

    Agreed, Will. Gentry’s given away 2 or 3 games already. How many more will there be?

  • bill.thomas

    Why was Scola given major minutes and crunch time minutes when he was either cold as ice throughout, or was well-defended?

    Beasley is the only one we have who matches up physically against Amir Johnson, a reserve who torched us. (Noting the accompanying photo of Johnson (who must have some kinda hops) nearly jumping over the top of Jermaine (ala Tom Chambers over Mark Jackson or Telfair over Nate Robinson)), it would not have made much sense to have Scola or a much shorter Tucker defending Johnson on a night when Beasley was available and apparently playing well.

    With Shannon’s poor shooting it would have made sense to play just Beasely and Dudley at the wing spots during the last 6 minutes when we were trying to pay catch up. (I know, Shannon is our best TF shooter and Bease has been known to maker crunch time errors, but it looked like he on his game tonight).

    Not sure why Dragic had just five assists when the article makes it seem that he was orchestrating the offense. Still trying to figure out why he is not getting 8-9 assists a game (regardless of whether Beasley, Shannon or anyone else is getting some) on this fast paced team.

    I have to lay some of this on the coaching staff. Although I have never been very critical of Gentry, I am beginning to lose faith in this coaching staff as a whole.

  • bill.thomas

    For that matter, Markieff was apparently taken out for foul trouble. He still had three to give at the end of the game. While I was not watching, I doubt that Bargnani or Johnson could have had great success against him.

  • Anonymous

    Wizards would win 4-1 in this years finals.

  • shazam

    will the suns play down to the heats level in the finals this year?

  • Tony

    It’s amazing how many Suns fans are now blaming Gentry when who they should be directing that blame towards the Three Stooges. I told you all this team was garbage and it’s not as if I was the only one saying this; every national NBA analyist ranked this Suns team in the bottom of the league,

    I don’t care who the coach is, you are not going to win when you put together a roster without any star talent, nine different players from last season, no veteran leadership, and your best players as young and unproven. Right now, this team’s best player is Dragic and that is not a good thing. He’s a good player no question about that, but let’s face reality, he’s not even close to being as good as Nash in his prime. Considering that the Suns still try to play uptempo, the fact that he’s only averaging 6.8 assists per game means he’s not creating enough for others nor making his teammates better.

    Now I know the Sarver-loyalists will come to his defense, but this latest Suns gimmick of “guaranteeing satisfaction” is downright pathetic. It’s like they are begging for fans to watch a bunch of mediocre players lose much more often then they win. It’s no surprise people don’t want to pay their hard-earned money on a lousy product, especially when the money just goes to the incompetent front office anyway. So buckle in Suns fans, because if you think 7-10 is a bad record, remember one thing, this Suns record is based on their “easy” portion of the schedule, it’s going to be far worse now that they play some top teams.

  • Luka

    This is the end product from years of mismanagement by Sarver. It’s sad what’s happened to this once proud franchise. I’m definitely still a fan, but you almost have to root for them to keep losing games at this point and try to rebuild in the draft.

    This team as constructed is going nowhere. Outside of Dragic, there’s no consistency, no real leadership. The front office did nothing to address the Suns defensive issues, and it’s more unclear to fans what the finished product will be.

    Fans are losing hope, and interest. It’s disappointing how fair weather the PHX market has become, but you can’t blame people for not going to games anymore.

    Sarver needs to sell now, break even on his investment, and go back to San Diego where he belongs. This city deserves a winner in the worst possible way, and it’s not coming from an arrogant tightwad like Sarver.

  • bill.thomas

    “Arrogant Tightwad”?????????.

    Got to be the understatement of the last 100 years, short of calling Hitler or Stalin “not a nice guy.”

  • Tony


    well-stated. Although, in my opinion, true Suns fans should in fact stand up for the Suns franchise and demand more from the front office. So I am glad Suns fans are staying away because that’s the only legitimate way we as fans can make a substantial difference and have our voices heard. An “arrogant tightwad,” as you put it, who also happens to be a lousy banker, will find it increasingly difficult for him to continue to own the franchise while he losing more and more on his investment in the Suns. So eventually, and hopefully very soon, he can no longer afford the team and has to sell it to an owner actually committed to winning instead of trying to win on the cheap.

  • bill.thomas
  • Michael

    I just hope and pray the post Sarver era will come hopefully very soon.
    It’s a shame watching these players.
    I can’t blame Gentry because of the Lissy performance. You can’t run a Skoda like a Ferrari. These players are just not better then they played the last bunch of games. Like Tony has stated, the record will become a lot worse now playing a tough schedule in the next couple of months.
    Dragic is a solid guard, it’s just not fair comparing him to the best PG of all times. The rest of the team is max. mediocre.
    Beasley is just not gonna be a superstar, I have no clue what our FO’s visions came from. Scola is mediocre, so is Marcin. Every time he faces top C’s, he fails awfully.
    We practically have no SG, and we practically have no SF that would belong into the NBA (I really like PJ, I really really do, but he is more of a pure defensive stopper. Would be a nice asset to any team that has enough talent apart from him).

    We won’t get any top player from free agency. People that are dreaming of Al Jefferson or other MVP calibre players coming to the valley, why on earth should they join the Suns? There is absolutely no reason joining a franchise low on talent and with a FO free of a plan how to get things better.
    At least half the league are ready to offer max. contracts the next offseasons, so why should anyone come to PHX. All we could get is a highly overpaid player like Beasley.

    All my hope lies in the upcoming drafts. Therefore, although it’s hard to stand, I do appreciate any loss of the Suns as it makes it more likely to get a top pick the next summer. On the other hand it’s a nightmare realising that this pick has to be done by the present front office. They are easily able to grab the worst player in the lottery. So maybe all I do is waiting for the next Kwame Brown… Exciting…

  • bill.thomas

    Maybe Kenyon Martin ????

  • bill.thomas

    Here’s a trade the Lakers would have made in a heartbeat 5 days ago but won’t after tonight, even if we throw Kendall Marshall in:

    Shannon Brown for Jodie Meeks.

    Still don’t know why we never talked to Meeks; he was signed at the last minute by the Lakers. Still don’t know why the Sixers didn’t resign him; best guess is that once resident genius Doug Collins doesn’t appreciate your skills, you’re done over once more beyond glued and tattood.

  • bill.thomas
  • shazam

    the f o took semi cheap gambles this year knowing that if they dont pan out the downside was a high lottery pick…too bad they didnt gamble on mayo and let the beas go smoke pot some where else…with that said…we all knew this was coming..we wouldnt be better of for the future if we kept far as fair weather fans go?…well that just doesnt apply in basketball ..the sport is too talent driven…every team takes a huge hit when they suck…in the finals this year the suns will beat the heat 4-0

  • bill.thomas

    Meeks Line Tonight: 7/7, 7/8 from three, 2 assists, 1 steal in 17 minutes. Defended primarily by the much taller and very athletic Iguadola, Brewer and Hamilton, and maybe some by Ty Lawson.

    When will Sarver ever learn to hire competent help in the FO ????

  • bill.thomas

    If Sarver is paying Blanks even 2/3 of what Zeller is making, he’s overpaid by a mile.

    Now I know why Hill and Dudley made a PSA regarding gay people rather than one regarding “retards”

  • Dan Smith

    Bill, agree with the Kobe article completely..even though I can’t stand him or the Lakers. Sometimes it’s good to go on a tirade to show that you’re passionate about something and losing is just something you go ‘oh well’ about.
    Not sure about the Meeks thing though. I don’t think we want to trade Brown for Meeks because of one game esp when he’s only averaging 5 on the season.

  • bill.thomas

    @Dan: He’s been getting no minutes and they have no point guard. Duhon finally recovered some PG skills tonight.

    For that matter bring on Andrew Goudelouck, who was released by LAL when they signed Meeks. At least he’s a reliable shooter. I don’t know what other problems LA may have had with him but he doesn’t toss up as many bricks as most of our players.

  • bill.thomas

    Thank you for your moderation on both comments. The Goudelouck one especially sounded problematic to Blanks, since he’s never heard that name in his life.

  • Dan Smith

    Can’t believe all of the things I’m reading in this article?!?! I was at the game tonight and I’m supposed to be pleased they respond to an almost record breaking defeat to a crap team by going toe to toe with the second worst team in the league?? Especially when it’s a game they should have easily won. I mean c’mon, their leading rebounder is Lowry at 5.7 a game and they get outrebounded 41-34! At one point they were outrebounded by 11..totally unacceptable…and letting them shoot 8-13 on 3′s..please!!! They’re not even a good team from long distance.
    The entered this game 6-7 before the road trip where they should have easily gone 3-1 against Philly, Cavs, Pistons and T.O. and now be sitting at 9-8 to be in the 8th spot and ahead of L.A. I might add. Not that playoff positioning is crucial at this point. And Dudley said he was expecting to come back home being over .500, hahaha…is this another joke/prank with that trademark humour of his. Get ready for ALOT more disappointment with NY, Griz, Mavs and Clips coming up and two of those on the road still. I hope ownership is ready to dole out alot of $ for this money back satisfaction fiasco…..

  • bill.thomas

    @Shazam: How is WJ a “semi cheap gamble?”

    From what I’ve seen so far
    Sarver bought a very low first round choice in a very mediocre draft for $4 million. Walking-around money I would very much like to have in my own wallet.

    If I we’re Sarver the next $20 K I would invest would be in a lawsuit against Blanks and Babby for misrepresentation and gross incompetence !!!!!!!!

  • Lon Babby

    (Babby following the Suns losses to Detroit, Toronto)

    I’d ask our fans for the following things: patience, perseverance, passion. Despite the early turbulence, as Alvin acclimates new players to our franchise, we feel we’ve handled the ups and downs with the utmost respect and professionalism. It’s sometimes human nature to be impatient, and to panic. But Robert, Lance, Alvin and myself firmly believe we’re making progress to get our team to the next plateau. We will continue to do our due diligence as a franchise, and pursue any avenue that again helps us in our championship aspirations.

  • bill.thomas

    @Lon Babby: Original thoughts if I ever heard any.

    Would someone please check that self-actuating replay button on that machine.

  • bill.thomas

    @WJ: Oh, I forgot, we got rid of Warrick’s nasty contract in that WJ deal.

    Oh, I get it, the FO fixed a nasty problem it created all o n its lonesome.

  • bill.thomas

    @ Dan Smith: Its gotta be a Jared prank I think. Don’t worry about his sense of humor, DeRozan sure doesn’t.

  • Alvin Gentry

    I thought we did a good job to compete. We just didn’t make shots. But, overall I felt our team did a much better job executing. We still need to do a better job defensively, and that’s something we’ve talked about. But we did a good job to compete.

  • bill.thomas

    Funny column from the Toronto Star:–toronto-raptors-beat-phoenix-suns-101-97-to-end-six-game-losing-skid.

    Notice they broke a six game losing streak??? We’re the team everyone looks forward
    to having as an honored guest. See ya, Lon, see ya, lance.

    Notice the great contests in the lane from Markieff and Marcin on DeRozan. Looks like they we’re trying to get out of the way of a 23 year old Shaq. Oh well, Marcin, I hope you get that fat contract.

  • Fan in Chi Town


    Regarding the LATimes column, I just laugh when I think of D’Antoni coaching Bryant and Howard because I just think he’s so overmatched by their egos.

    Also, I saw what you were talking about as far as Gortat moving out of DeRozan’s way on that dunk. It’s like dude, you have six fouls. Knock him down and stop being so freaking soft. It’s so frustrating to watch. This team has about a tenth of the mental toughness that my local high school team has.

  • DBreezy

    Yes but they probably get hotter women than your local high school squad.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    So true…so true…

  • Dan Smith

    Yeah I did know about the streaks…Raps were on a 6 game losing streak and at 3-13 at the time…only 1-13 Wiz are worse. And Suns hadn’t lost here (I live outside of Toronto area) since 2004…which was coincidentally the start of SSOL era. It’s what makes these Pistons and Raptor losses so tough to swallow and it’s depressing frankly esp. remembering all the heartbreaking playoff losses, I think back on what we had and now this is what we are. Does anyone even care, or is it only us fans?? That’s what it seems like to me

  • Dan Smith

    Also it was pretty embarrassing with the one of few Suns jerseys on hearing Raptor fans all around me making comments like “oh man Beasley really sucks, every team he goes to gets worse”…..

  • Scott

    Yes, the Suns lost to the Raptors, but keep in mind the records are a bit misleading. The Raps had only won 3 games whereas the Suns had won 7, but the Raps were playing against quality teams while the Suns have started their season playing against many of the worst.

    Despite the variance in records, at this point in the season the Raps are a better team than the Suns.

  • shazam

    scott;;;so the suns came close to playing up to the raptors level?

  • Dan Smith

    Lol, funny comment on the Babby machine…I checked that T.O. star article. Sad seeing Gortat standing there clueless and helpless. I seen the same sort of play from Scola running down the court, oblivious to the pass on the fastbreak to the man in front of him. Didn’t even bother to look back to break up the pass attempt once, haha. That’s why it was frustarting having him in there from the 3rd quarter to the end of the game when his offense, rebounding and D clearly sucked!
    To be fair, the refs did suck..with the Brown call at the end and that 3rd quarter And 1 continuation BS. Although, do we really have to rely on going down to the wire with that team. We were up ten after the 1st (where we usually struggle) and that’s the way the whole game should’ve gone. Gortat’s really a big part of all this, playing terrible since he made those comments about ‘being pissed he’s not the star of the team” or whatever, LOL. He’s rebounding like trash and not blocking anything lately…I’d gladly welcome those OKC, Boston or Magic trade rumours. I’d rather have Afflalo and Vucevic any day!!

    By the way, does anyone know whether the Babby and Gentry comments are actually from them??

  • Dan Smith

    The raptors in PPG, Reb, Assists and PPA rank 17th, 20th, 22nd and 27th whereas PHX is 13, 18, 20 and 30…exactly how is Toronto better?
    The Suns have played Heat(2x) Chi, LA and Phi. Also Denver and GS…I didn’t realize all of those teams stink??!

  • DBreezy

    @Dan Smith,

    Check those stats after the end of Dec or Jan when the Suns have played more quality opponents and the Rapd schedule evens out and I think you’ll see Scott’s point. Not saying it’s a definite but would it be a shock if the Suns were to lose at least the next 4 games? Sure management can use it as an excuse if they want to make a coaching change, but the story has pretty much been written already.

  • bill.thomas

    @Dan: I would think those have got to be impersonators. You’re
    not required to verify ID to post on here. Pretty good improv, tho.’

    Maybe its Mike trying to put up a defense of the absent defendants.

  • bill.thomas

    @Fan in Chi Town: Mike is actually an excellent fit over there. Neither he nor Phil would ever take a TO before the last two minutes of a game.

    “They’re veterans, let ‘em play!”

  • shazam

    @ bill your comment about wj trade and warrick savings———->”Oh, I get it, the FO fixed a nasty problem it created all o n its lonesome.” ….sarver lone wolfed that warrick move that brought him to phx….we didn’t have an f o.. kerr had left…babby was repping turkeyglue to us…after hedo deal babby then cozied up to sarver for the job he has now.