That wasn't very pretty.
The Raptors headed into Phoenix on Sunday night with a chance to go 3-2 on the West Coast portion of their road trip. After impressive back-to-back victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets, Toronto lost in overtime to Portland and fell to a Warriors team that was simply better. None of the performances on this trip -- save for the 49-point fourth quarter given up to Chicago that started this trip before Christmas -- were particularly alarming, but things came to a bit of a head against the Suns.
The Raptors' defense has been a concern for a long stretch now, sometimes masked by the fact that the team's offense is strong enough to overcome their deficiencies, other times because they've simply lost to better teams (see: Warriors), but against the Suns, they allowed 70 points in the first half and put up absolutely no fight on the defensive end. They were slow rotating to open shooters on the perimeter, and allowed Phoenix to get to the rim at will.
Trailing 70-53 heading into the third quarter, the Raptors tried to get back into the game to start the second half, but it was a 23-point deficit after three, and the fourth quarter was basically garbage time, which allowed the Suns to cap off an embarrassing night for the Raptors with this Archie Goodwin dunk on Jonas Valanciunas:
A few other things of note:
- Valanciunas finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, this after a career-high 27 points in the first meeting against Phoenix this season. I'll probably repeat this over and over again, but in certain matchups -- most of them, really -- the Raptors need to get their big man involved early, and then stick with it throughout. Valanciunas is proving that he deserves the additional touches, and the team has to adjust accordingly to make sure we're maximizing his minutes on the offensive end
- This was probably one of the first times this season (maybe even the very first time) where the Raptors were pretty much out of the game from the start. This one was over by the end of the first quarter. End of the road trip, tired legs, etc, etc. It's a long season, I know, but the defensive effort has to come through on nights like this. The worst thing in sports is watching your team lose because you're being outworked
- First three-game losing streak for this team since the Rudy Gay trade
- With DeMar DeRozan set to return on Thursday against the Charlotte Hornets, this was -- unless timetables change -- the team's last game without their starting shooting guard. They ended up going 11-7 in their 18 games without him.
- Despite the three consecutive losses to close the trip, the Raptors are still bunched together with Atlanta, Chicago and Washington in what's shaping up to be an exciting race for the top seed in the East. Now, they head home, with a six-game home stand that will give them a chance to make up some ground in the standings, and more importantly, clean up some of the bad habits that popped up during this road trip.
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