Game Preview: Raptors at Suns


Key questions heading into the second game of a three-game trip for the Raptors against the Suns at US Airways Center (9 PM ET, TSN2, FAN590).

Can The Raptors Bounce Back? It’s the big question coming off what head coach Dwane Casey called the “debacle in Golden State” after Thursday’s practice in Phoenix. That’s an extremely economical way to describe the Raptors surrendering a 27-point lead in an eventual 112-103 loss to the Warriors in Oakland — the biggest comeback allowed in franchise history and the team’s fourth straight loss overall.

With consecutive days off between road games for the only time this season, the team elected for a team outing together on Wednesday to hit the reset button, take a mental break and put Tuesday behind them. It’s something Casey said was planned well in advance, but proved even more timely after Tuesday’s defeat.

“We had a good hard practice today. No disrespect to Phoenix and no disrespect to the game because we know we have work to do, but that was the reason why, to refresh the mind, get us juiced up again, clear out minds a little bit and get back to work.”

Mission accomplished if the goal was to get a spirited practice out of Thursday, but does it make a difference tonight against the Suns?

More from Casey after the morning shootaround below…

Can The Raptors Continue To Attack The Offensive Glass? The Raptors have been a very good offensive rebounding team this season, ranked fourth in the NBA at 12.8 per game (a byproduct of a team ranked 27th in field goal percentage). The Suns meanwhile, have been the league’s best team on the fast break, averaging 20 points per game in that category.

Put that together and you’ve got a pivotal statistical category heading into tonight’s matchup.

“If we limit their offensive rebounds, we’ll probably win the game” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said after the morning shootaround on Friday. “We’ll be able to get out on the break and get some easy buckets. That will probably be the key stat of the night.”

As Casey mentioned in the video above, it’s a two-way street when considering these strengths of the two teams.

“We’ve got to be careful on more than two guys crashing the glass. On the raise, we’ve got to get three guys back. That’s going to be very important because they fly.”

Can The Defence Pick It Up? Opponent’s field goal percentage is a big stat for the defensive-minded Casey and he can’t be all that pleased about what he’s seen in that regard during the team’s current slide. They’ve allowed opponents to shoot 49.8 per cent from the field during this losing streak and will get tested again tonight against a Suns team ranked sixth in field goal percentage at 46.3.

The Raptors are also going to have to be ready for another hot-shooting, dynamic backcourt with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. Dragic is shooting 53.7 per cent from the field over his last five games, while Bledsoe has racked up six scoring efforts of at least 20 points this season — including the team’s win in Houston.

Will The Raptors Keep Streaking Against The Suns? It’s a small comfort, but the Raptors have had some recent success against the Suns — a rarity for them among Western Conference teams. They’ve won two straight meetings against the Suns in Phoenix and the only other Western stop where they can make such a claim is New Orleans (also where they’ve won two straight).

The Raptors have taken three straight against the Suns overall, including a season series sweep in 2012-13. That Phoenix team was thought to be on the path to rebuilding post-Steve Nash, but they’ve bounced back nicely and exceeded most pundits’ expectations this season with a surprising 10-9 start and a balanced brand of basketball under Hornacek.

Long known for their offensive punch, these Suns are also playing defence with a 13th-ranked defensive rating of 101.6 points allowed per 100 possessions through their first 19 games. They’re coming off an impressive 97-88 road win over the Rockets on Wednesday that saw their defence hold the Rockets to a season-low 35.2 per cent shooting from the field.

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