Postgame Central: Suns vs. Raptors - Mar. 6, 2013
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Suns Drop to Raptors at Home
By: Stefan Swiat, Suns.comPHOENIX -- After winning three-straight games and having four days off between games, momentum appeared to be on the Suns’ side when they hosted the Raptors on Wednesday.
However, when Suns center Marcin Gortat suffered a sprained right foot with 34.6 remaining in the first quarter that forced him to leave the game, it seemed as if he took the momentum with him. The Suns were outscored by 10 in the second period, falling behind by 14 at the half, and never recovered in a 98-71 home loss to Toronto.
“He was playing good,” Suns forward Michael Beasley said of Gortat’s first quarter. “So to have him just go down, in the fashion that he went down, was just disheartening.”
Suns point guard Goran Dragic, who recorded six assists in the first period, did not collect another one once Gortat went to the locker room. Gortat gave the Suns an inside presence in the first, registering eight points and four rebounds in 11 minutes.
But it was all Toronto after his departure.
“Our defense wasn’t that good,” Suns point guard Goran Dragic said. “We were late in rotations and they scored easy baskets.
“We didn’t know what to do on offense. Maybe we played ok in the first quarter, but after that, everybody was holding the ball too much.”
The Raptors came into Wednesday’s contest third in the league in fewest turnovers, which they continued to manage against the Suns. Contrastingly, the Suns committed a season-high 29 turnovers, allowing the Raptors too many opportunities to capitalize.
In the three consecutive wins coming into Wednesday, the Suns limited opponents to a combined 39.8-percent shooting, including just 32 percent from behind the arc. Not only did they defend in terms of percentage, but they also held their opponents to an average of only 90.3 points a game, including two sub-90 defensive efforts.
But the Raptors were able to drill 11-of-24 of their shots from downtown Wednesday, which was good for 46-percent shooting. Meanwhile, Phoenix’s offense never really found its rhythm, as evidenced by 38-percent shooting from the floor on the night and a 31-point output in the second half.
“I think we just keep working until it’s a habit and a carry-over,” Suns Head Coach Lindsey Hunter said. “We’re creatures of habits. So until we create a habit that’s a permanent habit, (it won’t) carry over every to single game.”
Reserve forward Marcus Morris was the lone Sun in double figures with 12 points. He was 2-of-3 from three-point land.
The Suns, who boasted the second-best record since All-Star Weekend of teams heading into the break with below .500 records, visit Sacramento on Friday. With a season-high 10 home games in March, Phoenix will be back at US Airways Center to host the Rockets on Saturday.
When Suns point guard Goran Dragic and Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry were teammates in Houston, they divided the point guard duties. Now running the show for their own respective clubs, the two went head-to-head Wednesday. But Coach Hunter didn’t believe that Dragic would be affected by any sort of rivalry.
“Goran is the type that battles with himself more than against the opponent,” Hunter said. “He’s always ready to compete.”
It appeared that both players knew each other too well, with Dragic (eight points) and Lowry (five points) both having off nights.
Talking ‘Bout Practice
Typically when teams hit March, the practice schedule begins to lighten up a little. However, don’t expect Coach Hunter to follow that protocol.
Despite winning three straight, Hunter held some tough practices during this mini-layoff.
“Teams that are tapering off are preparing for the playoffs,” he said. “We’re not, so there’s no reason to taper off.”
Toronto’s Scouting Report
It’s always interesting to hear the perspective of opposing coaches. Before Wednesday’s game, Toronto Head Coach Dwayne Casey talked about the challenges of preparing for the Suns.
His main concern was stopping the surging Dragic, as well as his emerging connection with Marcin Gortat.
“He’s been really strong on the pick-and-roll with Gortat,” Casey said. “They’ve been strong and consistent. We have to do a good job, basically be up at the level of the screen and mix in some blitzes against him to keep him off balance.”
Compared to the Suns team he faced earlier this season, Casey believes that this is a club with its defense bolstered.
“They’re playing better defensively and they’re playing together as a unit, tied together on a string,” Casey said. “They’re keeping it tight defensively, probably more so than offensively.
“A lot of times guys that have nothing to lose will come together and play well. They’re banded together and it’s a credit to the young guys on their team.”
Streak in Danger
With Suns backup center Jermaine O’Neal in Boston for his daughter’s heart surgery, the Suns’ frontcourt was already thin. But with 34.6 seconds remaining in the first quarter, starting center Marcin Gortat was forced to leave the game with a sprained right foot.
Toronto’s Amir Johnson stepped on Gortat’s foot, causing him to awkwardly fall. The “Polish Machine” went to the locker room for x-rays and never returned.
He had poured in eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in just 11 minutes. Although the x-rays were negative, Gortat will receive an MRI tomorrow.
“The doctors say I’m out for a few days - maybe weeks,” the 6-11 center said. “I definitely heard a pop in my foot and I knew right away it wasn’t an ankle, it was just my arch. Obviously I’ve got a big bruise and pain.” He is the only Sun to start every game this season and has started 138 consecutive games.
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