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Raptors look to beat ice cold Suns: Preview, Start Time and more

A quick West Coast back-to-back ends in Phoenix, where the hapless Suns await.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Like pumpkin pie after a turkey dinner, the Toronto Raptors have a less exciting second act coming one night after losing to the Golden State Warriors. Tonight, they’re in Phoenix to take on the 9-23 Suns.

The Suns have lost six of their last seven games, including last night, when they were tossed around 119-98 by the Spurs. They sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, obviously a stark contrast to the hardy team the Raptors just visited. While moral victories are pleasing to some, real victories are pleasing to most — and tonight certainly seems a lot more attainable.

Here are three things to watch for.

Run, Run and Score

If there’s three things this young Suns team likes to do, it’s run and not defend and have a good time. Actually I’m not quite solid on the third point, but there are numbers to back up the first two — the Suns are second in the league in pace and sixth-worst in defensive rating, a hallmark of a (bad) team just finding their way. Remember those Raptors teams in the early-2010’s, all spunk and go-get-em attitude? Full of Sonny Weems and bald DeMar DeRozan? There’s a lot of similarities here in Phoenix.

Of course, there is no more Weems and spunk has turned to wins in Toronto, so the Raptors will be well-suited to scoring against this Phoenix team. Similar to the Portland game earlier this week, if the Raptors have some offensive toughness — they didn’t on that night — they should be able to beat the Suns at whatever pace the game ends up being played out.

Chandler vs. Valanciunas

I kind of feel for Tyson Chandler. Once a main point of conversation among NBA centres, Chandler has lost a bit of clout in Phoenix, continuing to play solid basketball for a regrowing team. Tonight, he’ll have the matchup with Jonas Valanciunas, which is somewhat of a marquee.

At 34, Chandler isn’t putting up the numbers of his younger days. He continues to exert influence on the team with his defense though, trailing just Eric Bledsoe in win shares (1.6). At this point in his career, he’s closer to the typical big that Valanciunas can bully in the post and handle decently on the other end. His backup, Alex Len, has been dubbed ruthlessly by our Sean Woodley as the “poor man’s Valanciunas.” It’ll be nice if we could get a “good Jonas” game, because there’s space to exploit here.

The Illusion of Booker and Bledsoe

Looking at a starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe, an established guard, and Devin Booker, a young dream for Ray Allen stans, I wouldn’t be surprised if a little chill went down your spine. In theory, those two should be an excellent shooting duo — able to knock down long-distance shots and provide ample space for their more bruising frontcourt players.

Well... it hasn’t really happened like that. Booker is experiencing a sophomore slump, shooting just 32.5 percent on threes (still jacking over five a game). Bledsoe is shooting a pitiful 29.7 percent on 4.5 three point attempts per game. While the Raptors guards have intermittently had a hard time keeping their check in front of them, it’ll be extra important tonight to keep Bledsoe and Booker from getting downhill plays to the basket. For struggling shooters, those easy hoops can open things up, and these are two potentially dangerous gunners who you’d rather have settling for tough looks. They haven’t made many of those so far this season and, on the second night of a back-to-back, you’d rather they don’t start now.

Where to Watch: TSN 2, 9:00pm EST