Suns vs Raptors Gameday Preview: Raptors Look for Third Straight Home Win

USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors cap off their recent three-game home stand with a match-up this afternoon against the Phoenix Suns.

Talk about flipping the script.

This time last year, a game between the Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors would have elicited a few shoulder shrugs.

And likely, if you were to rewind to October, most pundits would have said the same thing about this upcoming match.

But the Suns of course are the surprise team of the year in the NBA, owners of a 37 and 28 record despite playing in the rugged Western Conference and missing key guard Eric Bledsoe for a portion of the season.

And the Raptors, well we know all too well how their fortunes changed the minute they sent Rudy Gay packing.

Now, this afternoon's matchup takes on an air similar to that of Friday night's fight with the Memphis Grizzlies as both the Suns and Grizz are jockeying for one of the final spots in the West.  As of this morning, the Suns find themselves a game and a half back of the Grizzlies for the eighth spot in the West so this will be a big opportunity for them to try and gain some ground, especially since Phoenix has lost six of its last 10 contests.

Here are our three keys for the Raptors in terms of notching their 21st home win of the season:

1) Defense: As always, when the Dinos dig in defensively, good things happen.  Versus the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night, the team matched their opponent's defensive intensity and especially locked things down in the final quarter en route to the win.  This afternoon this becomes doubly important as the Suns are only a mediocre defensive team on the season (15th in defensive efficiency) but of late have been pretty much a sieve.  With the exception of their 87 to 80 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday evening, the Suns have given up an average of 112 points per game, most of these games resulting in losses.  If Toronto can dig in once more, it bodes well against a Suns club that has had trouble getting stops.

2)  Lowry vs Dragic: The battle of the "should-have-been-All-Stars."  Dragic and Lowry were the two biggest snubs this season in my books and this afternoon should be a fun contest between two of the league's best quarterbacks, and two former teammates.  I have a feeling the winner of this duel likely sees his club get the W when the final horn sounds.

3)  Pace and Style: Even though the Raptors won both games, at times versus both the Detroit Pistons and the Memphis Grizzlies, the ball stuck on offence.  There wasn't a ton of motion, there was too much dribbling in one spot and isolation offensively, and the Dinos struggled to execute.  It's imperative that the Raps do a great job in the half court tonight against a club that loves to get out and run.  Toronto plays at one of the league's slower paces while Phoenix is a shade out of the league's top five in terms of possessions per game, so the style of the match is critical in this one. If the Dinos struggle to execute on O, we'll likely see the Suns running the ball back down Toronto's collective throats in the other direction.

Which could mean a lonnnnnnnnng afternoon for the Raps and their fans.

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