Jan. 24, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat (4) puts up the ball against the Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani (7) and guard DeMar DeRozan (10) during the second half at the US Airways Center. The Raptors defeated the Suns 99-96. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports.

Phoenix Suns (21-39) vs. Toronto Raptors (23-38) Preview

Nov 30, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) and guard Goran Dragic (1) try to take the ball away from Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (3) at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns (21-39) come into Wednesday’s game rested after a four-day layoff with a three-game winning streak, as they host the Toronto Raptors (23-38). Phoenix would tie a season-high streak if they can come out with a victory.

Toronto is in a slump. On January 30th, the Raptors acquired Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies as the main piece in a three-way trade that also included the Detroit Pistons. In the following eight games the team went 6-2, with the only losses to the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, and wins over playoff teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, and New York Knicks.

However, now that everyone has settled in, they have gotten worse. Since that hot start, the Raptors have gone 1-6 and are currently on a five-game losing streak.

ESPN sets the line for this game at -1.5 for the Suns; basically saying Toronto will win by about one and a half points. This line is counter-intuitive because Phoenix is hot, with their win streak over the Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks, and are rested going against the barely better (record-wise) Raptors who haven’t won in over a week. However, the line is usually right, or at least close.

All the injuries for both teams going into tonight’s game are labeled as day-to-day, and the injuries are minor and everybody should play. The exception will be Jermaine O’Neal, who is away from the team for an indefinite amount of time to be with his daughter for her surgery to repair a leaky heart valve. For the Suns, Goran Dragic, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris will all play while they deal with minor injuries. For the Raptors, all three players on the injury report (Andrea Bargnani, Rudy Gay, and Kyle Lowry) all played Monday and there is no reason to think they won’t against Phoenix.

Keys to the game: Suns

  • Defend the three-point line. The Raptors with the addition of Rudy Gay and the return of Andrea Bargnani are a very dangerous group from beyond the arc, even though they are 21st in the league, shooting 34.9 percent from downtown. You never want to be the team that lets your opponent just keep making threes. The Suns probably won’t catch up if they let Toronto go wild from behind the arc because Phoenix is worse. They are a miserable 32.8 percent from three for 29th in the league this season.
  • Second chance points. The Raptors are far from an adequate rebounding team and if Marcin Gortat and co. can keep the likes of Bargnani and Gay off the boards in order to get second chance buckets, it’ll do wonders.

Keys to the game: Raptors

  • Get off to a good start. A five-game losing streak isn’t good for confidence going forward. The Raptors must burst out of the gates strong, in order to have a chance to win.
  • Lock up! Defensively the Raptors have given up 106.6 points on average in their five-game losing streak

The X-Factor!

  • The first quarter. While not indicative of the entire game, if the Suns can gain a substantial lead in the first 12 minutes, then Toronto might lose heart and not be able to get back into the game.

Match-up to watch!

  •  Gortat versus Bargnani. The Raptor’s center is coming off of a calf injury and if he can get his offense going the Suns might be in trouble. Gortat will have to contain him.

These teams are similar, although Toronto will have their “brighter future” sooner than Phoenix, because they were able to trade for a kind of star (Rudy Gay) and have the young talent that will develop nicely. If the Suns end up winning this game it won’t be good for their draft position. They need to lose these close games to less than stellar teams if they want a top-3 pick this off-season.

Tags: Basketball NBA Phoenix Suns Sports Toronto Raptors

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