Preview: Toronto Raptors (23-38) at Phoenix Suns (21-39)

Posted by on March 6th, 9:41 am

Raptors

Raptors

Suns

Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ

First glances can deceive, and tonight’s game is further proof of that.

The respective records of Toronto and Phoenix indicate they’re in the same boat. Lottery-bound.  Going nowhere. A mess.

A closer look at recent results, however, reveals they couldn’t be further apart.

The Raptors have dropped five straight, the second-longest active losing streak in their conference. Meanwhile the Suns have ripped off three straight victories. Incredibly Phoenix holds the second-longest current winning streak in their conference (behind Denver’s six-game stretch).

Toronto’s slide has severely crippled their playoff hopes, dropping them to 10th in the East and 8.5 games back of surging Milwaukee. The Suns? Their playoff hopes were crippled to begin with. Their recent, illogical stab at winning is more damaging to the likelihood of a top-five pick than anything else.

Phoenix’s biggest victory (besides the wins) has been the optimism garnered from the streak. Wes Johnson (totals over last three games: 37 points, 17 rebounds, 7-of-13 3FG, five steals) is threatening to shed the bust label he slowly manufactured after being drafted fourth overall. The Morris twins are, if recent results are any indicator, vastly better playing together than they are apart. Goran Dragic is turning his post-All-Star Weekend onslaught into an annual event.

The Suns aren’t completely devoid of losses. Jermaine O’Neal is out for at least three games while his daughter undergoes heart surgery. It’s a refreshing reminder of priorities, especially with O’Neal playing the best he’s played in years (11.8ppg, 8.0rpg over his last five games).

Tonight’s game, however, boasts a frontcourt matchup unfriendly to Lindsey Hunter’s lately-used combo of O’Neal and Marcin Gortat. Raptors center Andrea Bargnani, a perimeter-oriented big man, hit five 3-pointers in Toronto’s most recent loss to Golden State. O’Neal and/or Gortat are unlikely candidates to chase the former No. 1 overall pick around the 3-point line. The task could fall to Markieff Morris should Gortat or Luis Scola struggle with the assignment.

Expect P.J. Tucker and Johnson to spend a lot of energy on defense guarding either Rudy Gay or DeMar DeRozan, though Johnson would ideally force one of them to do the same on the other end. Gay matched Bargnani’s 26 points in their last outing, and is more comfortable shooting from outside than DeRozan. Most importantly, Phoenix must keep both former slam dunk participants from getting loose in transition.

The point guard matchup features two former teammates (and competitors for a starting spot) in Dragic and Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry ended up two assists shy of a triple-double against Golden State, and Dragic will need to focus more on boxing out than usual. Lowry averages an impressive 4.8 rebounds per game despite measuring just six-feet.

The Suns won the previous meeting with Toronto, 101-97.

Matt Petersen

Matt Petersen has covered sports for websites and publications for six years, and currently works as the Sports Web Editor and sports reporter for The Deseret News in Salt Lake City. Matt lived in the Phoenix Valley until 2009, when school and a wife brought him to Utah. He completed his B.A. in Communications and Journalism at Utah Valley University, going on to be a sports reporter at The Daily Herald in Utah before moving on to his current job. Matt has covered the Suns, Jazz, and Arizona Cardinals as well as NCAA and high school sports throughout his career.

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Tags: Goran Dragic · Jermaine O'Neal · P.J. Tucker · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview · Toronto Raptors · Wesley Johnson

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 PhxSunsFanInLA // Mar 6, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Lose the rest of the season for the best pick avaliable pleaseeee

  • 2 4everis2long // Mar 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    This should be a fun game to watch as Toronto actually has an exciting young team. They had Golden State on the ropes for awhile the other night. The Suns keep winning if Gortat mans up. If he plays soft like he has often this year, the Suns will lose as Amir Johnson is a beast for Toronto on the boards.

  • 3 TySun // Mar 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Whatever the outcome of this game I’ll be okay with it.  If the Suns loose, then their chances of getting a higher draft pick increases.  If they win, then it seems like the changes that Hunter has made are working and this team has more talent then people have thought it had.
     
    I’m glad that Johnson is playing so well but perhaps spending most of the year on the bench was what he needed to motivate himself.  I figured that the Morris twins should both play better together since they’ve been playing together their entire lives… they have a ready made chemistry.
     
    Regardless of the final draft order, I love the fact that the Suns are playing hard and to win.  At the same time I doubt they are going to not wind up with at least a top 10 draft pick this year and a fairly good shot at getting one of the top 3 picks in the lottery.
     
    Go Suns!

  • 4 4everis2long // Mar 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    @TySun I agree TySun the suns win either way. I have already set my sights on Oladipo or Porter (Georgetown), who could be available 3 through 7. I love Oladipo’s motor, defense and athleticism whereas I love Porter’s all around game. HE does not have exceptional athleticism but is long and can effectively play both wing positions.  He killed Syracuse about a week ago and they are a pretty good defensive team.. Either of these guys or Kentucky’s center, Noel, out with a torn ACL, would make for an excellent summer.

  • 5 ojai1980 // Mar 6, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    @4everis2long @TySun
    If the Suns can get Noel, especially if he drops because of the knee injury, I’m all for it. The Suns could let him rehab with the Warlocks. If they could package a player and a pick, maybe a possible Fakers Lottery 1st, to move up and pick another player like Oladipo or Porter to go along with Noel that would be awesome. Go Suns.

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