Suns win the battle of clutch minutes, Raptors streak snapped

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Courtesy: Frank Gunn / Associated Press

That old “make or miss league” cliché rang true down the stretch, but it was a great fight regardless.

The Raptors started a little sloppy then played solid for most of the first half afterwards behind the trio of freshly crowned player of the week Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. The second half then became a dog fight.

Board Man gets Paid?

That’s not Chris Boucher and Justin Champagnie’s phrase, but it felt like it this game. Boucher celebrated his 29th birthday dominating the glass with nine offensive rebounds (16 total) in 37 minutes off the bench.

This was definitely one of Boucher’s best games of the season. Shooting was off in all areas for the Raptors this game, including free throws. Toronto attempted 15 more shots by forcing 20 turnovers and grabbing 22 offensive rebounds. However they only made one more field goal than Phoenix. Champagnie continues to make a case for rotation minutes with whatever loose ball tracking radar he’s equipped with. He had five rebounds (all offensive) in 10 minutes this game. He didn’t play against the Pelicans, but hauled in six boards in just four minutes against Utah.

Taking the point gawd’s cookies was pretty cool too.

Where The Game Changed

The Raptors seemed fine with the grind house style, but Siakam’s fifth foul contesting Landry Shamet’s three point attempt hurt. Toronto was up 79-73 at that point with a little momentum and it took a playmaker off the court. The Suns were pretty content with the low percentage shots the Raps took for a three minute stretch after that. By the time Siakam returned, the Toronto was down one.

Then the wrong guys were firing. One of them came from Precious Achiuwa, hoisting up a three with 12 seconds on the shot clock immediately after an inbound. Mikal Bridges knocked down his attempt the other way and Achiuwa was subbed out shortly after. Precious did have a momentum swinging trey in a tie game at Milwaukee, so he’s made that before. It’s just not the ideal shot with that much time left. Khem Birch was forced into a corner three attempt a minute later but that was with the shot clock running out.

Winning Time

Phoenix came in 13-3 this season in games within five points with five minutes to go, holding the league most efficient offence and third best defence. Still, the Raptors were absolutely flying around making every possession an adventure, re-taking the lead thanks to OG.

The Raptors did a great job rebounding all night, but just couldn’t haul one in after this sequence. On the ensuing inbounds play, Chris Paul found a wide open Devin Booker off a great screen by DeAndre Ayton. After a Siakam miss, CP3 did what he has done a million times in his career. Make a dagger from his favourite spot just below the elbow.

Monty Williams made the wise choice of not allowing the Raptors to get chance to try a tying three. Fred was fouled in his own backcourt and Khem made a pair. We also learned that Devin Booker gets thrown off by literally the only fan/mascot in the arena?

The Raptor was banished to the corner for the next free throw but hilarious regardless. It was worth the try. While we’re on mascots, let’s not forget the other behemoth that also grabbed the attention of the Suns. Epic screengrab here.

I don’t believe in moral victories, but the Raptors showed they are going to be a pain in the ass any given game. Phoenix was the most healthy team to come up north in weeks and had to claw this one out.

“You gotta appreciate the fight, be proud of the fight. That was a really intense tough game. Probably as good as it gets without a crowd in there. They certainly raised the level. That’s the reason they have the best record in the NBA because they play that way every night. I thought we answered the call, it was a good test for us,” VanVleet said postgame.

“There’s a lot of things that didn’t go our way, but we still figured out a way to stay in the game. That’s just going to give us confidence. We need to play that way against everybody, not just the good teams,” Boucher added.

Sidenotes

Yuta Watanabe returned from Covid protocols and started along with Birch in place of Barnes and Trent. 15 minutes for Yuta, was a little off on both sides of the court. Was to be expected after a nine day layoff.

The too damn early standings update: Charlotte moved a half game ahead of Toronto, dropping the Raptors to 8th in the East

What’s Next?

At Detroit to kick off a five game road trip. The Pistons just lost to Chicago by 46! Knowing Dwane Casey though, that was probably because he was spending his Bulls prep on Toronto instead.

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