Raptors unable to complete late comeback in Phoenix, fall to 1-6 on the season

The Raptors showed strides in several areas in Phoenix on Wednesday night, but couldn't muster up a win to show for it.

It was a familiar tale for the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday evening in Arizona. A strong start which bred a lot of “maybes” amongst its fans. “Maybe this is the game they play the defense they’re capable of?”. “Maybe tonight’s the night Fred, Kyle and Pascal can all put it together at once”. “Maybe, this is where they turn this thing around”.

Much to the disappointment of the Raptors faithful posing those questions, the answer, as it’s remained all season, didn’t change.

Toronto dropped it’s 3rd game in a row, and 6th of the season, falling to the Phoenix Suns 123-115, finding themselves on the wrong end of a blistering shooting performance from their opponents.

The Raptors came out of the gates blazing, beaming with intensity on both ends of the floor and playing defence with the aggression of group in desperation mode. Pascal Siakam, recently put on blast for his poor performance and attitude to begin the season, showed up in Arizona with something to prove. Siakam netted a team-high 32 on the night, scoring the Raptors first 11 points and looked poised to carry his team to a much needed second victory of the season.

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But as it has all season long, poor defence plagued the Toronto Raptors in this one. If you watched the first half without the scoreboard on, it felt like the Raptors were up by a sizeable margin after two quarters. They played their best offensive half of the season. The poor decision making and hesitation on offence that was ruining Toronto’s chances at victory in their first 6 contests were nowhere to be found. The eye test screamed that this team was finally starting to find their feet. And they had, but not on both sides of the basketball.

Phoenix torched the Raptors from beyond the arc Wednesday night, hitting 21 threes on 52% shooting, en route to a 123-115 victory in Arizona. For all the sizable improvements made by the Raptors on the offensive end of the court, they were overshadowed by their slow defensive rotations, inability to close out and failure to keep the Suns off the offensive glass. That trio of sobering errors repeated itself like a broken record, and was on display in full form in this sequence:

A back and forth game in the first half saw the Suns take a 58-54 lead into halftime, one which was there for either side to grab control of in the final 24 minutes.

When the third quarter began, so did the nightmarish defensive lapses for the Raptors. You blinked, and Toronto was suddenly down 12 after a couple of quick triples from Cam Johnston and Devin Booker, who finished with 24 points on the night.

Following a timeout, a steal and a bucket from Lowry, followed by a pair of Anunoby transition triples, cut the Suns’ lead to one possession. That was as close as the Raptors would get. The lead of Phoenix yo-yo’ed up and down throughout the 3rd as Toronto kept it close, but were unable to supplement their runs with enough defence to reclaim the lead.

Phoenix’s bench proved paramount in protecting their lead on the night, holding a decisive advantage over the Raptor’s second unit, outscoring them 42 to 25 on the evening. Nothing was trending the Raps’ way in Arizona.

Finding themselves down as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, Toronto mounted a late comeback to cut the deficit to 6 with just over 2 minutes to go. But a late foul by Fred VanVleet, sent Chris Paul to the line on the next possession, all but sealing Toronto’s fate.

What goes up, must eventually come down. After winning an NBA championship in 2019 and outperforming their expectations last season, taking a talented Celtics team to 7 games, the Toronto Raptors begin the 2020-2021 season 1-6 – their worst start since 2006 (Andrea Bargnani’s rookie season).

The Dinos will look to pick themselves up and right the ship on Friday night as they visit Sacramento in an effort to climb out of the NBA’s basement.

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