Game Preview: Raptors @ Suns
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
After a 121-111 loss against the Warriors, the road trip continues. The Raptors flew to Phoenix immediately following the game in Golden State and will face the Suns on Thursday in the fourth game of this six-game trip.
Tip-off: 9:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: TSN2 / TSN1050
Looking for a bounce back win
Toronto’s loss in Golden State snapped a seven-game road winning streak and was just the third loss in 17 games. With three more stops on their current six-game road trip, DeMar DeRozan is confident about his team’s focus.
“We’ve always been the underdog so I think it’s just second nature to us automatically to go out there and have that mindset when we’re the road,” he said. “It just makes it easier for us.”
With a 22-9 record, including 11-4 on the road, the Raptors have done a solid job taking care of business away from the Air Canada Centre. While DeRozan credits the team’s underdog mentality, Terrence Ross points to the type of guys that make up the roster.
“We’ve just got a lot of tough, grind-it-out guys,” Ross said. “We love to go against the grain and fight that battle. I think that’s kind of what we’re built for.”
With time comes experience. The various situations Toronto’s veteran roster has endued together makes each new challenge that much easier to face.
“As we got put in situations and understood how hard it was for us to win, all of us [came] together,” DeRozan said. “All 15 guys saying we’re going to win together, we’re going to lose together, having that mindset was easy.”
DeRozan notches franchise scoring record, contines to expand game
The day before Toronto’s match up against the Warriors, DeMar DeRozan was asked how he’d prefer to set Toronto’s all-time scoring record if if he could choose the play. He said he’d pass Chris Bosh on Toronto’s all-time scoring list on a “contested shot anywhere, [a] fadeaway.” While such a shot would be fitting for DeRozan, he passed Bosh with a pull-up jumper shortly before halftime. Over his eight seasons in Toronto, DeRozan has gone from rookie to vet to all-star, becoming the face of the franchise along the way.
After the best season of his career a year ago, he showed up to training camp in September ready to elevate his game even more and he has.
“He’s growing,” Raptors assistant coach Rex Kalamian said. ”He’s taking steps as a player. It’s fun to watch his progression as a player.”
Prior to joining the Raptors staff, Kalamian was an assistant in Oklahoma City where he watched Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook develop into two of the best players in the NBA. With DeRozan, he has observed an increased confidence this year.
“I think something clicked after the Olympics,” Kalamian said. “I think being around all of those good players, being in that group being considered one of the top 15 in the NBA, I think something transpired over the Olympics where he came back feeling a little bit more confident about his game, his overall game.
No quit in this team
When the Raptors found themselves trailing 42-17 after the opening quarter against the Warriors, many thought the game was over. The largest franchise deficit after an opening quarter for the Raptors, down 25 points to the Warriors with a game the following night against the Phoenix Suns, this could have been a game that was over before it really began. That’s not the way Dwane Casey coaches, though, and it’s not the way his players play.
“I will take our fight and our grit to any team in this league,” Dwane Casey said after the Wednesday loss.
I liked our fight. I loved our grit that we showed. We could have gave in, it was a 20-point game, they were pouncing on us. We kept fighting. That will take us a long way.”
With Thursday’s game looming, Toronto elected to push for a comeback, rather than pull starters when the fourth quarter started with the Warriors ahead by 17. That’s how Kyle Lowry wants it to be.
“We just play, man,” Lowry said. “We go out there and we fight no matter the situation. We understand it’s a 48 -minute game and for us it’s always win or go home and that’s what we do. We play like that.”