The Toronto Raptors 6 game (All Star broken) road trip got off to a rocky start in Denver after they went down 112-93 in a disappointing performance. They have the chance to put that behind them and move on immediately as they face off against the 14-35 Phoenix Suns. Previous to the Denver game the Raptors had built an impressive franchise record 11 game win streak and were rolling in what has been a very good past month which also saw Dwane Casey win coach of the month and Kyle Lowry voted into the All Star starting 5 while DeMar DeRozan getting selected by coaches.
While the Raptors may be feeling a little down after last night it’s nothing compared to what the Suns are going through – their head coach Jeff Hornacek has just been fired and tonight they will be led by interim Earl Watson. They also have some serious injury problems. It’s already known that Eric Bledsoe is out for the season while his fellow backcourt member Brandon Knight has missed the last six and is not expected back until after the All-Star game. Furthermore, Markieff Morris has let it known he is frustrated with the trade of his twin Marcus Morris to Detroit and although expected to play the situation remains contentious. Phoenix is on a four game losing streak and the Raptors are looking to hand them down their 20th loss in 22 games. The Suns also rank last in field goal percentage defence and have lost by an average of 15.8 points in their past four losses, it is worth noting however the Suns upset the Raptors last time (107-102) and have taken four of the past five match ups.
Cage’s keys to the game
Don’t the Suns get an early run
With this being the second of a back to back the Raptors will need to make sure that they stop Phoenix from making an early run in the first half that could see them gain the advantage and force a tired Raptors team to play catch up. Against Denver the Raptors were in the game at the end of the first but fell behind quickly and never recovered as a result.
The Raptors gave up 112 points against the Denver Nuggets so defence has to be prioritised tonight. When the Raptors were on their win streak it was on the back of some really strong defensive efforts that got them over the hump so many times..
Literally and figuratively. Literally in that the Raptors have had such good board numbers in games this season but were badly let down in the game against Denver. Tonight they face the out of form Suns – the boards will likely prove an important factor. Figuratively, in the that after a great January the Raptors started February in awful fashion – lets hope they can get another win on the board by bouncing back for this one.
Raptors X-Factor: Terrence Ross
With James Johnson now injured the Raptors are going to have to look to the bench wings for production – notably Terrence Ross who is likely to take most of the minutes from Johnson. The Suns can play a physical game at times which may make the job for Ross all the more harder. If he has a good night the Raptors chances of winning are dramatically increased.