Suns fire enough to hold back determined Raptors


Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, left, tries to control the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan.6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin)

The Phoenix Suns continue to find a winning formula while their starting five’s offense is still on the line. On Wednesday, in a 123-115 victory over the Toronto Raptors, it was a high level shot + a sufficient defense.

The Suns made 21 lines, one off the franchise record. This included a stretch in the second half where they started an absurd 12 of 15.

Jae Crowder (21 points) hit six and Cam Johnson (16 points) added four. Phoenix had 30 assists and just 12 turnovers. Cam Payne recorded a career-high 10 assists (with one roll) in just 16 minutes.

“We just felt like if we could touch the paint we could get some open shots,” said head coach Monty Williams.

Payne was the perfect player to do so as he continues to prove he’s a legitimate save point guard.

“He has different equipment. He has a herki-dry character to his game and he’s a willing passer, ”said Williams. “The thing about Cam’s passes is they’re on time and on target. You rarely see him passing the ball up or down. I thought his passes were fair tonight. His ability to reach for the paint really helps us in these situations.

The Suns’ defense (6-2) did not reach its rhythm until the second half and the Toronto attack (1-6) continued to come throughout the game. While the Phoenix attack was clumsy there were enough deep ball conversions in the first half to supplant that and be four in the middle of a game it felt like they should. fall behind. The Raptors had 28 quick break points and hit their season average. 16 at halftime.

Phoenix blocked enough defensively for the final 24 minutes to help secure a win.

“They only had 17 assists, so they were playing dribbling and missed shots,” Williams said. “Defensively we weren’t bad… you’re talking about a desperate team that won a championship. I thought we were doing enough to win the game. There were sections where we looked really good and then we made it.

This barrage for the Suns of 12 three-pointers in just over 16 minutes to start the second half ultimately brought a 15-point advantage early in the fourth quarter.

The Suns’ offense found a rut again, however, failing to score 4:51 of playing time and allowing the Raptors to come close to six with 2:11 to go.

Mikal Bridges suffered a foul to stop the race and Kyle Lowry’s technical foul for Toronto gave him a nine-point lead. Even after a sustained effort from the Raptors with pressure from all over the field to make things interesting, they just didn’t have enough time to make a comeback and the Suns took the win.

The Raptors entered the game in a funk, and their star player Pascal Siakam was the messiest. His six-game season high was 22 points, a total he hit midway through the third quarter. Siakam’s combination of strength, footwork and agility as a slasher is one of the best on the planet.

He did so on Wednesday, to the point where Williams placed center Deandre Ayton on him in the second half. Bridges and even Crowder, a very strong guy, got overpowered by Siakam. Ayton did his best, playing a solid defensive game overall, but even with his prowess on the ball he couldn’t stop the All-Star wing who scored a high of 32. With the play dominating Siakam, the Suns did it. Limit it enough in the final quarter to play a part in a Suns victory.

“He’s an All-Star and he’s won a title,” Williams said. “Good players have the ability to reach their places even when you know what they’re going to do, but I thought in the second half it was a lot harder for him.”

“I thought our aggression was to just draw the line and say, ‘If you want to score you have to score long and get through us.’ I thought it was a lot better, ”added Williams.

Much of it was Ayton. He had 16 rebounds in 31 minutes, plus 11 points.

The Suns scored 42 bench points, Johnson’s 16 and Dario Saric’s 15 accounting for the bulk. Booker finished with six assists to go with his 24 points while Chris Paul provided eight assists and 12 points.

The players will admit what was mentioned at the top, that overall they still find themselves as a team right now. The fact that the Suns can be 6-2, still be aware of that and inspire confidence that they will continue to improve is pretty darn remarkable.

“We’re just trying to rack up some wins… it’s a very strange season,” said Paul. “The guys haven’t had a chance to play pickup before the season, there hasn’t been a lot of practice so games are looking a bit like that right now because the teams try to understand and play at the same time, but we just want to win. We just want to rack up victories. “

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