The Toronto Raptors hosted the number two team in the West tonight in a (yet again) empty Scotiabank Arena as they continue creep closer to that number six spot in the Eastern standings. After a six-game winning streak, the Raptors finally faced a fully healthy team for the first time since going on this incredible run — so were they up to the challenge of stretching the streak to seven?
Unfortunately the Raptors themselves couldn’t face the Suns fully healthy, with both Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. out due to injury for this matchup. Going into the game, the main question was who would step up and score vital points that would usually go to Scottie or Trent Jr.
All of the action that came from the Raptors in the first half was generated by the starters. Other than a few moments from Boucher and Achiuwa, all of the energy and offence was driven by Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby.
The Raptors started the first quarter out with high energy and went on a run to get ahead by ten points, where they stayed for quite some time as the defence was able to keep Chris Paul and Devin Booker at bay.
By the end of the first quarter, the Raptors were up 25-16.
The second quarter saw the Suns creep back, going on a 17-4 run throughout the quarter to get back into the game — but the Raptors kept above water and didn’t let them get too far ahead.
Fred, Pascal and OG Anunoby continued to pull the weight, and by the end of the first half all three were in double digits.
The Raptors end the half up by two, with a score of 48-46.
To start the second half, the Suns came out hot (no pun intended), forcing three turnovers off the bat and not allowing the Raptors to get any sort of run going. This game was definitely not a game of runs at all.
Most of the third quarter was a back and forth of leads, ties and turnovers. Who continued to bring it for the Raptors? You know the answer. Fred VanVleet. Although he had a quieter night than he has in recent weeks, he was still shooting the threes from everywhere he could.
Is it getting old to talk about how incredible he is at shooting the three? No? Okay I’m going to keep doing it anyway. At one point he had a tough looking off-balance three to bring it back to a tie. He is a machine. Okay back to the game.
This third quarter was just messy on both sides. Both teams were strong defensively which only led to both teams not scoring much, making mistakes, and consistently turning the ball over.
The quarter ends with Pascal Siakam hitting the midrange jumper to bring the Raptors up to a two-point lead with a score of 71-69.
The fourth started with more of the same, both teams locked in defensively, getting stops — but the Raptors managed to go on a little bit of a run and get up by five points before Suns coach Monty Williams called a time out.
Unfortunately, Pascal Siakam gets called for his fifth foul on a less than ideal play, putting him in some trouble in a game where he had been making all the difference. The Raptors also used up their coach’s challenge earlier (a success), on a play with OG Anunoby — so they can’t even try to reverse the call.
Pascal sitting due to foul trouble causes the Suns to bridge that five-point gap and get back even. It’s Justin Champagnie who comes in and grabs some key points and rebounds to continue to make this an even contest.
It’s with four minutes to go in the game when the Suns finally get their largest lead of the game, six points over the Raptors. That doesn’t stop Toronto though, as they get it back within one with two and a half minutes left in the game. It’s officially a nail biter up in here.
Shortly after Devin Booker gets his fifth foul, which leads to a coach’s challenge from Monty Williams to prevent OG Anunoby shooting free throws. The challenge is unsuccessful and OG heads to the free throw line, where he scores both and regains the lead.
But the Suns get it back and the vet Chris Paul makes a clutch basket to get the Suns up by three points with less than a minute to go in the game. The Raptors respond and get it back to one, but have to foul Booker to get him to the line. He gets both, and the Raptors are down by three points with possession.
It’s back and forth fouls and free throws to get possession back until the clock finally runs out and the Suns take it. A true fight that left us on the edges of our seats until the very end.
The final score is 99-95 for the Suns.
Overall, it was a hard fought game. Considering they played against one of the toughest teams in the entire league, this game was a good sign that this team is very close to being contenders. A few mistakes that could have been prevented — but this team continues to look better and better as they continue to figure it out.
Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam are playing at an elite level, with the rest of the team showing fight and energy to support them. They are at a crossroads in the season as they head on the road and try to keep it up.
The Raptors have a few days off to get some guys back before they play Detroit on Friday at 7 p.m.