Suns-Raptors Game Preview

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
Posted: March 23, 2011

One night after just missing a chance to move closer to a playoff position, the Phoenix Suns appear to have an easier opportunity for a win.

The Suns will try again to cut into their deficit in the Western Conference race and seek to bounce back from an agonizingly narrow defeat by posting their 14th consecutive win against the visiting Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.

A season high-tying four straight losses dropped Phoenix as low as 11th in the West last week. The Suns responded with consecutive wins, and nearly claimed a third in a row Tuesday at the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Lakers.

The Suns (35-34) rallied from a nine-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation at Staples Center, then played three overtimes only to fall 139-137.

"We have resolve. We play hard, and we compete like crazy," coach Alvin Gentry said. "We were playing a helluva basketball team (Tuesday), a team that's playing better than anybody in the league right now. They're 13-1 since the All-Star break. We had a chance to do something special, and we didn't quite get it done, so obviously it hurts."

In his third game back from a dislocated right shoulder, Channing Frye scored a career-best 32 points and hit three free throws to force the second overtime. Steve Nash recorded a season-high 20 assists, and Marcin Gortat added 24 points and 16 rebounds.

The loss prevented Phoenix from moving a percentage point ahead of Houston for ninth place in the conference. The Suns are instead tied with Utah for 10th, and three games back of eighth-place Memphis as they try to reach their sixth postseason in seven years.

Facing the lowly Raptors might help their cause. Toronto has dropped 15 of 16 on the road, 26 of 33 overall, and the last 13 meetings in this series.

The Raptors (20-50), though, recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since December in Sunday's opener of a five-game trip. They edged Oklahoma City 95-93 on Amir Johnson's layup with 1.4 seconds left, ending a franchise-record string of 14 consecutive road losses.

Toronto fell flat the following night, losing 123-90 in Denver. Andrea Bargnani finished with 20 points, but was the only Raptor with more than 15.

"If you are a step slow in this league, and whether it's inexperience or fatigue from travel or playing in a back-to-back, you get exposed," coach Jay Triano said. "We did (Monday)."

The loss clinched the Raptors' first 50-loss campaign since they finished 27-55 in 2005-06. It's been even longer since they last beat Phoenix, 101-94 on the road Feb. 10, 2004.

That drought nearly came to an end when Toronto visited last season, as the Suns needed Nash's three-point play with 38 seconds left to prevail 101-100.

Phoenix won 110-92 in Toronto on Feb. 25 despite getting only seven points from Nash, who shot 2 of 12. Former Raptor Vince Carter and Gortat each had 17 points.

Bargnani had his best performance in eight career matchups with the Suns in that game, scoring 26 points while making 12 of 15 shots.

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