Raptors look to bounce back against Suns
The Toronto Raptors and the Phoenix Suns are both coming off losses they would like to put behind them when they meet Thursday night in Ontario.
The Eastern Conference-co-leading Raptors fell 117-108 to the host Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, ending a five-game winning streak. Toronto squandered the game on an 11-0 Boston run late in the fourth quarter.
Kawhi Leonard, who scored 33 points Wednesday, has yet to play both ends of a back-to-back for the Raptors. He played more than 36 minutes Wednesday.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse has indicated that Leonard soon could be playing both ends of consecutive games. Leonard has been treated carefully after missing most of last season with a quadriceps injury.
The Suns, meanwhile, opened a four-game road trip Tuesday with an uninspired performance in a 131-97 loss to the Indiana Pacers despite the return of Devin Booker.
The Suns had won two of three games without Booker, including a 102-93 victory over Denver Nuggets on Saturday. He was limited to eight points in 27 minutes Tuesday.
"There's no excuses to it," said Booker, who had been sidelined due to back spasms. "I just didn't play a good game."
The Suns will have to start better Thursday in Toronto than they did against the Pacers, who shot 58.3 percent in the first quarter.
"We didn't show up," Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said. "We didn't show up the first quarter. The way we opened the game, that wasn't part of the game plan."
The Suns committed 10 turnovers, four by Josh Jackson, in the first quarter, setting up 15 Indiana points. Phoenix committed 19 turnovers leading to 29 points on the game.
"Being anxious, not disciplined," Kokoskov said. "That's a key word for us. Being more disciplined. More precise. What's the purpose of the play? Just trying to not force anything. It's just discipline on both sides of the court. It's something that hurt us (Tuesday)."
Suns guard Jamal Crawford missed his third consecutive game Tuesday because of a sore left knee and is listed as questionable for Thursday.
The Raptors won the first of two games between the teams 107-98 Nov. 2 in Phoenix and have won three in a row against the Suns after sweeping both meetings last season.
Leonard led Toronto's scoring with 19 points in the game at Phoenix, and Kyle Lowry had 12 assists. Booker scored 18 points against the Raptors after missing the three previous games with a strained left hamstring.
The Raptors started well against the Celtics and led by 11 points during the first quarter. They fell behind by 16 during the third quarter and then had a four-point lead in the fourth quarter before Boston's game-clinching surge.
Despite the loss, the Raptors have played well since the Spurs embarrassed them 125-107 Jan. 3 in Leonard's return to San Antonio.
The Raptors won their next five games before stumbling on Wednesday.
"It gave us a little bit of a wakeup call," Nurse said pregame Wednesday about the San Antonio contest. "I was treating it like kind of a ho-hum regular-season game, and it probably wasn't the right thing to do. I certainly love the response that we've got since getting our doors blown off. We've responded very well, we've played very well, feel like we got a lot of swagger back and feel like we think we're a good team when we step on the floor, and we play like it."
He said the Toronto offense improved.
"I think we've been more patient," Nurse said. "I thought we patiently have looked for really good shots a lot more lately instead of just taking the first action and throwing up some so-so stuff."
The Raptors were without forward OG Anunoby on Wednesday because of what the club said was personal reasons. Swingman CJ Miles didn't play against Boston due to a hip injury.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 17, 2019