Phoenix Suns vs Toronto Raptors

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

Another Western Conference team in the heart of the playoff race is set to take on an Eastern Conference opponent Friday night as the Phoenix Suns take on the Toronto Raptors in the Raps’ temporary home of Tampa Bay, Florida. The Suns are coming off a heartbreaking one-point loss to the Orlando Magic in which they led for most of the game but wound up losing 112-111. The Raptors finally got a win, blowing out the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, 135-111. This is the second game between the two teams this year with Phoenix winning the first game at home on January 6th, 123-115.

And Lowry is Officially…Staying?

Rumors were flying off the handle the last few weeks about Raptor’s legend Kyle Lowry most likely being traded before Thursday’s trade deadline with teams such as Philadelphia and Miami as the most likely destinations. However, by the time noon came around on Thursday afternoon, Lowry was still with Toronto. However, forward Norman Powell, who was also heavily rumored to be on the trade block, was dealt to the Portland Trailblazers for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. With all the turmoil the Raptors have faced recently, the end of the trade deadline could be a signal of calmer waters from here on out. If anything, Wednesday night was a step in the right direction as the Raptors’ win over Denver snapped a nine-game losing streak.

Wednesday night’s win helped Toronto to move only 2 ½ games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As head coach Nick Nurse told reporters after the game, “We’re not a million miles away from getting into postseason play and that’s what we’ve got to make a run at.” In his final game for the Raptors, Powell ended his services there with a solid game, putting up 22 points, three rebounds, a steal, and a block on 8-12 shooting and 3-4 from behind the arc. Star power forward Pascal Siakam had a game-high 27 points to go along with eight rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a block on 8-15 shooting. Small forward OG Anunoby had another solid all-around game with 21 points, six rebounds, and three assists while Fred VanVleet chipped in another 19 points and two assists.

Phoenix Road Streak Over

In what would wind up being Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon’s final game for the Orlando Magic, also wound up snapping Phoenix’s three-game winning streak. Phoenix led most of the game, but simply could not shut the door on Orlando, as Suns star Devin Booker told reporters, “We started off the right way, but we never got over that hump.” The Suns remain in second place in the Western Conference playoff standings with a 29-14 record but their loss Wednesday night only keeps them a half a game ahead of the L.A. Clippers who beat the Spurs on Thursday. The Suns also remain three games behind the Utah Jazz for the top playoff spot. This season Phoenix has played excellent basketball away from home, going 14-6 on the road and had won seven in a row before losing to Orlando. It’s the longest road winning streak for the Suns since the 2006-’07 season and they have the second-most road wins in the NBA.

Booker did his part against Orlando, scoring 25 points, dishing six dimes, and grabbing six boards to go along with three steals. He’s Phoenix’s leading scorer on the season with averages of 25.1 points and 4.7 assists and put up 24 points and six assists in the first meeting between these teams this season. One reason the Suns have played so well this season is that they provided Booker with a lot of help this season, starting with Chris Paul who puts up 15.9 points, 8.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds on 48.6% shooting from the floor and 94.6% from the charity stripe, second-best in the NBA. They’ve also got their young center Deandre Ayton averaging a double-double on the year with 14.7 points and 10.9 boards a game. On the year, Phoenix is averaging 113.9 points a game, good for 11th in the league, and they’re good on defense too, holding teams to only 107.4 points a contest, third-best overall.

The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet
Rating:

Phoenix has played better basketball lately than Toronto as evidenced by the Raptors’ recent losing streak. The Suns are also a formidable team on the road, even better than they are at home. Here’s the thing: Phoenix is in the playoffs. Unless they have a monumental meltdown, the Suns will be in the postseason whereas Toronto is just out of the picture. Unlike the Suns, the Raptors need every win they can grab so they can get themselves back into the playoff race with only 29 games to go. As bad as they’ve been lately, remember this team is still relatively intact from last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals team. They have no choice but to play desperate basketball if they want to be in the playoffs and Phoenix is going to have trouble competing with that energy. The Raptors have also won six of the last seven times these teams have squared off. Take Toronto.

Prediction:
Toronto +4.5

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Full-Game Total Pick
Rating:

The trade deadline is over and no one can be happier about that than Lowry, who was the biggest name in trade talks for the last month. Despite losing Powell, the Raptors still have plenty of offensive firepower. They just put up 135 on Denver, but Phoenix can hang if this turns into a shootout, which I suspect it will. Toronto is not good a defending the three-pointer and Phoenix is in the top ten in the league behind the arc. As good as Phoenix is on defense, VanVleet, Siakam, and Lowry are all capable of going off on anyone and Toronto is going to be aggressive Friday night. Phoenix has plenty of good three-point shooters to keep Toronto honest, but both teams are going to struggle to stop the other team from scoring. Take the over.

Prediction:
Over 223.5