The Toronto Raptors saw their franchise-record 11-game win streak snapped last night with an embarrassing blowout loss at the hands of the Denver Nuggets.
With that, the Raptors' streak ends as the third-longest in the NBA so far this season, trailing the Golden State Warriors' 24 straight to start the season and the San Antonio Spurs' 13 consecutive W's from Boxing Day to late January. The 11 games for the Raps also tied the Toronto Blue Jays for the longest win streak in Toronto pro sports history (a feat the Jays have accomplished five separate times, most recently this past August).
But enough about the past. The Raptors get right back at it tonight with a game against the Phoenix Suns in the second game of a back-to-back. This will also mark the second game of six consecutive on the road for Toronto (five of which are prior to All-Star Weekend).
Things to Watch For:
1. New-look Suns
When the Raptors lost 107-102 to the Suns on November 29th, Phoenix had Jeff Hornacek as a head coach, its two leaders in minutes played were Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, while Devin Booker and Archie Goodwin both picked up DNP-CDs.
To say a lot has changed since then would be an understatement.
Bledsoe is out for the season after having an operation on a torn meniscus in his left knee, Knight has the team's last six games due to a groin injury, Booker and Goodwin have been Phoenix's starting backcourt for the last two weeks, and this will be the Suns' first game played since firing head coach Jeff Hornacek on Monday.
At 14-35, the Suns are tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second-worst record in the Western Conference. They might seem like a team to look past on the schedule, but players have a tendency to get up for the first game following a head coach's firing, as if to prove to management that the team's woes were indeed the coach's fault and not theirs.
Watch out for a Suns team with lots of budding young talent and something to prove tonight.
2. Bouncing back
Last night's 112-93 loss to the Nuggets was the first game the Raptors have dropped since the demoralizing 122-100 loss at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers back on January 4th. They responded to that blowout by ripping off 11 straight wins, so it'll be interesting to see how they respond after last night's shellacking by a 19-30 Nuggets team.
DeMar DeRozan was basically the only Raptor to have a good performance last night (24 points on 7-for-14 from the field and 10-for-11 from the line, four assists), so look for Kyle Lowry, in particular, to bounce back from his 3-for-12 shooting, 10-point performance.
It's no trouble to tell that the Suns are in rebuild mode, seeing as how Devin Booker (17.8), Archie Goodwin (15.2), and T.J. Warren (11.0) have been their leading scorers over the last two weeks. As previously mentioned, this is likely a game the young Suns get up for, but it should be a great opportunity for the Raptors to get back in the win column against a team that's more focused on development and lottery balls than being there themselves.
3. Potential trade pieces
Markieff Morris and the Suns have been in a tiff since this summer and the Raptors are one of the teams that have come up in trade rumours regarding the disgruntled big man.
It's surprising that Morris outlasted Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, but there's still a good chance that 'Kieff gets moved in the next couple weeks as we approach the NBA's trade deadline. Our readers liked the idea of acquiring Morris just fine this past summer, so this game could be an interesting opportunity to see first hand what the guy is capable of on the court.
But why stop there? The Suns are in a clear position to be sellers at the deadline, while the Raptors might be the clearest buyers on the market. As Phoenix shifts to developing their youth, players like Mirza Teletovic and Tyson Chandler might also become available.
The Raptors want to win this game first and foremost, but it's not a bad window shopping opportunity either.
Where to Watch: TSN1, 9:00 PM EST