You think afternoon NBA games are low energy? Friends, let us introduce you to the afternoon NBA scrimmage! It wasn’t exactly a spirited affair from Orlando this afternoon between the Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns, but the latter team definitely had a spark — and a shooting touch — the defending champs lacked.
Despite a few runs, the Raptors couldn’t string anything together consistently, while the Suns’ hot shooting didn’t let up all game; they finished 15-for-33 from downtown through three quarters (i.e., non-garbage time), while shooting 46% overall. Even defensively, normally the champs’ hallmark, the Raptors were a step slow; the Suns had 24 fast break points, 38 points in the paint and assisted on 28 of 39 made field goals. The Raptors, sloppy all night, finished with 28(!) turnovers.
The third quarter was the real difference maker. Trailing by six at halftime, the Raptors came out inspired by — who else? — Kyle Lowry, who had one of his signature “Eff this, we’re not losing this game” looks. Trailing 72-63, Toronto went on a 10-0 run, with Lowry scoring a layup, a triple, and then assisting on a Marc Gasol three. The Champs had arrived!
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The Suns proceeded to unleash a 25-8 run, that included three-pointers from Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio and two from Mikal Bridges, along with four Raptors turnovers. It also featured Booker posterizing Pascal Siakam, a highlight we refuse to show (but you should look it up, ‘cause it was pretty sick).
The Raptors did manage to cut the lead back down to 11 by the end of the third, but Nick Nurse went to the bench in the fourth; Norman Powell did what he could to provide the spark, but the Raptors couldn’t cut into the lead. When Stanley Johnson came in with 7:50 to go and the Suns up by 12 — essentially, the exact opposite of the victory cigar — this one was over.
Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 17 and shot 4-for-5 from downtown; Fred VanVleet didn’t shoot the ball well (4-for-11), but finished with 13. He and Kyle Lowry combined for six turnovers, however.
The Raptors started out in this one featuring Marc Gasol on offense, and he looked great: He took two shots without hesitation, and moved the ball well around the perimeter as you might expect. The team’s chemistry on offense continues to be on point, as the players are finding each other on cuts and flares regularly.
Defensively, the Raps were a step slow, though, especially in transition, as the Suns jumped out to an early 10-point lead and the Raptors couldn’t quite catch up. When OG Anunoby — who didn’t start, but subbed in for VanVleet after about four minutes — drained a three and Lowry took a charge (of course), there was life, but Frank Kaminsky answered with a triple the other way. The Raptors even used a full court press to try and cut into the lead, but it didn’t help — the Suns drew two quick fouls and the plan was abandoned. Only back-to-back dunks from Chris Boucher and Anunoby kept the score respectable, 35-29, after one.
In the second quarter, the Raps calmed down a little bit, and Siakam led the way on offense. He drained two triples — one off the dribble from the top of the arc, and another from the wing — but a couple butterfingers turnovers helped the Suns maintain their lead. Eventually a Lowry charge taken, followed by a Lowry three, cut the Suns’ lead to four, but a Cameron Johnson jumper gave the Suns their 6-point lead back at halftime.
Siakam had 14 at the halftime mark, after shooting 5-for-7 from the field. Norman Powell broke out of his mini-scrimmage-slump, with a matching 5-for-7 half and 12 points.
Mikal Bridges led all scorers with 26 points, and shot 10-of-12 from the field (and 4-of-5 from downtown); Ricky Rubio shot 4-for-6 from three and finished with 22 points.