Raptors stick to gameplan, defeat Suns

Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking care of business.

In a nutshell that was the goal going in to a game with a fatigued Phoenix Suns squad and that is exactly what the Raptors’ accomplished.

At times it was pretty, but games like this one with a team that is well-rested, owns a deeper roster, and has more experience are rarely that pretty.

The Suns battled, no question, but for the majority of the evening the lead was around 13, ending up 126-113 in Toronto’s favour for its fourth consecutive win.

The Raptors spread the scoring around nicely in this one with six different Raps getting into double figures and no one scoring more than the 20 Kyle Lowry had to go with 10 assists.

The team did have 30 assists, one shy of the season-high and the 10th time they have surpassed the 25-assist mark, something they did only nine times all of last season.

“We’ve talked about it a lot,” Jakob Poeltl said of the focus on ball movement. “We’ve worked on it a lot and it’s paying off. It’s as easy as that. It’s not like (Lowry) and (DeMar DeRozan) are the only guys scoring on our team. Everybody is scoring. We are moving the ball and it’s fun to play that way.”

The game featured a career-high four three-pointers from rookie OG Anunoby, who finished with career-high tying 16 points, but was probably most impressive locking down Devin Booker, who he held scoreless from the field in the first half.

Booker would leave the game late in the fourth, carried off with what team officials were suggesting was an adductor muscle tear, similar to the one DeRozan had three years ago.

The Raptors also made franchise history in this one holding the Suns without an offensive rebound in the game.

“During the film session before the game and even yesterday we really talked about that,” Poeltl said of the Suns penchant for going hard on the offensive boards. “They really tried to have us dialled in on their bigs and boxing them out. I guess we just got good bounces and good boxouts tonight.”

SUNS DON’T QUIT

Give this young Phoenix team plenty of credit: They don’t quit. The Suns were down by as many as 17 points in the first half and crawled back to within nine by the break. In a game that few gave the Suns any chance at all, mostly because they were playing the second of back-to-back games against a rested opponent and were playing their sixth game of a six-game road swing. They should have been dog tired. And perhaps they were but they didn’t give in.

Sure, Booker didn’t have his shot going after playing 39 minutes in the win over Philly on Monday, but he was active with his defence and deflections. Anunoby, the Raptors rookie who was Booker’s primary defender made his night tough including an 0-for-7 from the field in the first half, but he got to the line and chipped in with five rebounds and four assists in that half as well.

ANOTHER BIG TEST

Anunoby isn’t exactly easing his way into his NBA career.

Since he joined the Raptors starting lineup Nov. 14 in Houston following a hip injury to Norm Powell, Anunoby has been the primary defender on James Harden, Jrue Holiday, Bradley Beal, and Victor Oladipo twice.

It’s not an easy road for a seasoned veteran, let alone a true rookie, and Anunoby had another big chore last night in the Suns high-scoring winger Booker.

Anunoby has had both good and bad moments defensively throughout the past two and a half weeks, but he has never backed down, never given in, regardless of the high level of responsibility.

“Yeah, it’s going to be a big assignment for him, for Norm (Powell), for DeMar, all of our wing players,” head coach Dwane Casey said of the Booker matchup. “OG is learning to guard dynamic players like this, that use the pick-and-roll. You used to have the power threes, but those guys, Carmelo (Anthony) moved out (of the conference), and we haven’t seen (LeBron) James yet from Cleveland. So his matchups are kinda guys that are like Booker. It’s gonna be interesting to see. I know he had Beal earlier and did a decent job, as well as you could with a young player on him, and this will be another learning experience.”

Casey knows he’s asking a lot of his rookie but the team clearly believes he’s capable of being that lock-down defender. But even lock-down defenders have to learn at this level and Anunoby is getting a quick education. Casey has definite ideas about where Anunoby needs to take his game next.

“Guarding the pick-and-roll,” Casey said. “Guarding those actions, pick-and-roll actions, pin-down actions, multiple schemes, you know, pin-down into a pick-and-roll, which direction are you sending him. All those things that he’s learning to do. Stationary, he’s good. Just playing one-on-one in a stationary situation, he’s got that. But learning those multiple actions and then guarding that is his next level.”

BRIEFLY

DeRozan rarely disappoints. Watch him closely enough in a game and you can always find something he’s doing that isn’t necessarily in his everyday bag of tricks. Last night in the first quarter, he had a behind-the-back pass to Serge Ibaka for an easy bucket and then later in the third he was on the run with a full head of steam and delivered an underhand bullet pass to Anunoby for the uncontested dunk … Poeltl may be getting calls from some dance studios the way he tip-toed through the lane on a feed from Fred VanVleet just before the end of the third quarter. Poetry in motion is not that much of an overstatement. The man has magic in both his feet and his hands.

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies