The Toronto Raptors fall to 1-6 on the season with a 123-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns, who move to 6-2 on the year.
It was quite possibly the best effort from the Raptors on the young season but the Suns' hot shooting made the difference as the team finished the night shooting 21-for-40 (52.5%) from beyond the arc. Devin Booker led the way for Phoenix with 24 points while free-agent acquisition Jae Crowder added 21 points thanks largely in part to his hitting six triples.
Pascal Siakam was nothing short of impressive, finishing with 32 points on 11-for-20 shooting, while Kyle Lowry added 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Ultimately, it wasn't enough, as the Raptors continue to work to figure things out to put their struggles behind them.
For more on how this went down, here are some thoughts from the game…
1. A pre-game moment of unity
A reminder that ultimately, it's always bigger than basketball.
United pic.twitter.com/VajVSDiK0L- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 7, 2021
Unity pic.twitter.com/NFbX3BnX4g- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 7, 2021
2. The red-hot Suns
It felt like the Suns couldn't miss from deep.
They rarely did.
After shooting 9-for-21 (42.9%) in the first half, the Suns took it up a notch in the second half to finish the game with a season-high 21 made 3s. Crowder knocked down six triples and Cameron Johnson hit four while both Booker and Mikal Bridges sank three triples apiece.
Though the Raptors finished the night shooting a very respectable 14-for-33 (42.4%) from deep, the 21-point difference from beyond the arc was way too much to overcome.
3. It sure looks like Pascal's back
After a rough start to the season, Siakam looked much much more like himself.
It began in the first half, where Siakam made his presence felt early and often, scoring 19 points (on 7-for-10 shooting) to go along with four rebounds. He picked up where he left off over the final 24 minutes to finish the night with a game-high 32 points to go along with eight rebounds.
It was Siakam's first time crossing the 30-point plateau since scoring 33 points on March 3, 2020, in … Phoenix. Things haven't been great for Toronto to start the season but with this version of Siakam, things are sure to get better sooner rather than later.
4. Phoenix's second unit got it done
The Suns' bench made a big difference in this one.
Led by 16 points from second-year forward Johnson, Phoenix's second unit outscored Toronto's bench 42-26. Dario Saric added 15 points off the bench while former Raptors training camp invitee Cameron Payne dished out a game-high 10 assists in 16 minutes off the bench.
pic.twitter.com/qaUJ7YGCmH- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 7, 2021
Even more troubling for Toronto is that outside of the starting five and Norman Powell, the team only got 13 points, nine of which came from Chris Boucher. Nick Nurse continues to tinker with his rotation, giving Yuta Watanabe and Malachi Flynn minutes, but he hasn't seemed to have found the right combination just yet.
5. VanVleet rewrites the record book…
After hitting a 3-pointer in the first quarter, Fred VanVleet made it 39 straight games with at least one made triple, setting a new Raptors franchise record.
Fred VanVleet sets Raptors franchise record with a made 3-pointer in 39 straight games#WeTheNorth- Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) January 7, 2021
The last time VanVleet failed to connect on a 3? Dec. 8, 2019.
6. …And Lowry does, too
While VanVleet moved to No. 1, Lowry moved up to No. 5 on the franchise's all-time rebounding list. Lowry entered the night needing six rebounds to surpass DeMar DeRozan, which he did in the opening half.
Lowry finished with nine rebounds to bring his total as a Raptor to 2,743.
Next up? Amir Johnson, who pulled down 2,836 rebounds in a Raptors uniform.
7. CP3 continues to ease his way in
The Suns have opened the season by winning six of their first eight games, and Chris Paul has yet to truly tap into that All-Star level we saw from him last year.
After finishing with 10 points (on 4-for-12 shooting) and eight assists in 31 minutes of action, Paul is now averaging 13.3 points and 8.3 assists while shooting 40.7% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. Considering the fact that Paul essentially had no true training camp with this team, there's still plenty that he's figuring out about playing with them and vice versa.
That Phoenix is 6-2 without its All-Star point guard playing at his peak level yet should put the rest of the Western Conference on notice.
8. What's next?
Toronto heads to Northern California to take on the Sacramento Kings on Friday at 10 p.m. on the TSN Network.
Catch you then.
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