Phoenix Suns: Loss to Toronto first somewhat acceptable loss of the year

Devin Booker Phoenix Suns Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Devin Booker Phoenix Suns Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns lost to the Toronto Raptors by 11 points on Friday night, but it was the first time that the loss didn’t sting all that bad.

The Phoenix Suns are young and were expected to lose a lot this season – as much as we want them to win. But they were also supposed to be better than in years past, and on paper, there is no doubt that the 2018-19 incarnation is better than they have been since 2013-14.

Yet, although they won their opening night game to the Dallas Mavericks in a manner that appeared to be a sign of positive things to come, they have failed to show any of that same improvement over their following six games.

Six games, six straight losses, and almost every one of them they played just as poorly as the majority of games last season when Ryan McDonough intentionally had them blown out, and giving fans very little hope for the future.

Losing more than they win this season isn’t a surprise though. Suns fans aren’t stupid: they knew that Phoenix wasn’t supposed to go to the playoffs this season. They knew that the Suns were supposed to lose between 45-55 games.

But what was supposed to be different this season was that they were going to be competitive.

Last season they lost by 30+ points so many times not only did we lose track, but we became numb to it. Losing by so many points was more the norm than Norm walking into the bar Cheers.

This team stacked up to be different: more experience, veteran laden, and better coached.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

For the second year in a row Robert Sarver said that the Suns were going to be competitive (he claimed that he expected them to be a playoff team last season – he fired the head coach less than a week later, then this year proclaimed the tank to be over).

Yet so far the Suns have not put the results where Sarver’s mouth is.

The roster is finally in the next stage of improvement as it is being built around a small core instead of playing only the young players with very little college experience let alone professional.

Yet here we were, heading into Friday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors on a six game losing streak with losses of an average of 21 points.

Losing wasn’t the end of the world for the 2018-19 Phoenix Suns – losing by an a blowout average of 21-points per game and not even competing  for those losses is.

Then Phoenix faced Toronto.

They got Devin Booker and Isaiah Canaan back (one more important than the other) and what happened: they led after the first quarter for the first time since opening night.

They led at halftime – for the first time at opening night.

Granted, they fell apart in the third quarter and were never really able to get close enough to put a real scare in the Raptors, but they actually competed.

The Suns lost to a team they were supposed to lose to, but they showed that they weren’t going to go down without a fight.

These are the kinds of losses that fans can be okay with this season. They can accept a loss so long as the team showed legitimate improvement over their 2015-18 counterparts.

Plus, if the Suns are competing and staying within firing range of some of the league’s best teams, then they are going to start beating, with more regularity, those teams that are in the same stage of Purgatory as Phoenix is, giving fans more victories to celebrate – and more hope for the future.

There are many ways for them to be competitive, although the most important is making their shots: after shooting 55.9% from beyond the arc, the Suns shot an abysmal 28.2% over their next six losses, and only 44.1% from the field overall.

They actually didn’t do much better against Toronto, firing only 30.8% from 3 and an even 44.0% from the field, but still managed to hang tough long enough against a team that is much more experienced and talented.

One has to imagine that Phoenix will not be a God-awful shooting team for the duration of the season, especially if by some miracle a trade for an above average point guard is made. Doing so would of course open up the offense providing more open shots in rhythm than the players are used to thus far.

The Suns need to remain competitive though. If they are going to lose a lot this season, they can’t lose by  alot. They need to stay in games and show both growth and reason for fan support and optimism.

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The loss to the Toronto Raptors was the “best” one of the season.

While we’d obviously all rather the Suns win, if they are going to lose, then they need to lose in the manner that they did against Toronto.

Then, once their shots start falling with consistency, they’ll probably show that they truly are that time on the rise that they so claim to be.