The Phoenix Suns move to 30-14 on the season with a 104-100 victory over the Toronto Raptors, who fall to 18-27 on the season.
Chris Paul led the way with 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds and Deandre Ayton added 19 points of his own to go along with nine boards as Phoenix held off a late fourth-quarter push from Toronto, which was led by 26 points from Pascal Siakam and 22 points from Fred VanVleet.
Here are some thoughts from the buzzer…
1. The new guys suit up
Both Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood made their respective debuts as members of the Raptors on Friday night.
Trent, whose father, Gary Sr., played for Toronto in the 1997-98 season, chose to wear his father's No. 33, as his previous number was already taken.
Like father, like son | #33 pic.twitter.com/ZwYHx2x7tZ- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 27, 2021
Trent got the start in his Raptors debut while Hood was the first man off the bench. While Trent failed to knock down a triple, he did score eight points on 4-for-11 shooting from the field in 31 minutes of action. Hood, who saw 18 minutes of action, scored two points.
It's safe to say that each will be key members of Toronto's rotation moving forward.
2. Suns dominate the paint
Sometimes, small-ball has its disadvantages.
Tonight, those disadvantages took centre stage.
In starting a frontcourt of 6-foot-5 Trent, 6-foot-7 OG Anunoby and 6-foot-9 Pascal Siakam, the obvious mismatch is with 6-foot-11 former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton, who shot 9-for-12 (75.0 percent from the field) and pulled down three offensive boards. Ayton certainly had his way on the block and in the interior but it wasn't just him.
For the game, the Suns scored 58 points in the paint to the Raptors' 32. Phoenix felt very little resistance in the paint, shooting 29-for-42 on the inside.
The rebound numbers weren't awful, as the Suns outrebounded the Raptors 47-38 but in the game's final moments, Mikal Bridges pulled down a big offensive board with Phoenix up two and the shot clock turned off.
With the Raptors then forced to foul, that rebound ended this one.
3. Siakam stuffs the stat sheet, again
For the second time this week, Siakam did a little bit of everything, which was again reflected in the final box.
Siakam led all scorers in the game with 26 points (on 8-for-17 shooting) and also pulled down a game-high 11 boards and tied Kyle Lowry for a team-high with six assists. In the three games since a rough outing in Cleveland, Siakam is averaging 24.7 points on 49.0 percent shooting to go along with 9.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
As Toronto looks to make a playoff push, this is the version of Siakam that it will need.
4. VanVleet brings much-needed shooting
After knocking down five triples on Wednesday, VanVleet shot 6-for-15 from beyond the arc on Friday.
VanVleet's shooting was much needed in this one. Outside of him, the Raptors shot just 6-for-30 (20.0 percent), with Kyle Lowry going 3-for-5, OG Anunoby shooting 2-for-6 and Malachi Flynn going 1-for-3.
By that count, five different Raptors went ofer from deep, with Siakam missing all six of his 3-point attempts, Trent going 0-for-5 and Chris Boucher going 0-for-3.
That Toronto had an opportunity to win despite its shooting woes should be a good omen moving forward.
5. Chris Paul's still got it
Hopefully, you didn't need this to serve as a reminder.
The 16-year veteran, who will turn 36 ahead of the 2021 NBA Playoffs continues to prove time and time again that he's not slowing down anytime soon. Whether it's taking advantage of a mismatch on the drive
Do ya thing CP!@ConnsHomePlus #MakeItHappen pic.twitter.com/jILMeS9n9f- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) March 27, 2021
Or the patented mid-range jimmy.
It's just so beautiful to watch pic.twitter.com/mx49urliDA- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) March 27, 2021
Paul finished with 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds. The 11-time All-Star's game is ageing with grace and he's a big reason this Suns team will make serious noise in the postseason.
6. Bembry, Watson enter protocols
Toronto was shorthanded in this one as it was without DeAndre' Bembry and Paul Watson, two players that stand to take on an increased role moving forward.
Both Bembry and Watson have entered the league's health and safety protocols and as it is unclear why they have entered, it is unclear how long they will be unavailable.
We'll keep you covered with updates surrounding the status of Toronto's reserve wings.
7. What's next?
A homecoming of sorts, as the Raptors host Norman Powell and the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, March 28 at 7:00 p.m. on Sportsnet. The Suns conclude a road trip on Sunday when they visit the Charlotte Hornets at 1:00 p.m. ET.
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