A six-game winning streak for the Toronto Raptors was snapped on Tuesday. They’ll look to begin a new one at the front end of a five-game road swing, which begins in Detroit on Friday.
Phoenix, which owns the NBA’s best record, edged the Raptors 99-95 in an empty arena because of COVID-19 restrictions in Canada. The Raptors will see plenty of fans on their eight-day journey.
Toronto’s point total against the Suns was its lowest since scoring 90 points in a victory over the New York Knicks on Dec. 10. The Raptors led by one until Devin Booker hit a mid-range jumper with 1:07 left. A Chris Paul basket gave Phoenix a three-point lead and six free throws in the last 6.5 seconds ended Toronto’s streak.
“That’s probably as good as it gets without a crowd in there,” point guard Fred VanVleet said. “They certainly raised their level. There’s a reason why they have the best record in the NBA; it’s because they play that way every night. I thought that we answered the call. I thought it was a good test for us. Obviously, we didn’t come out with the victory, but you appreciate the fight.”
VanVleet has been on a scoring tear, averaging 29.6 points in the past nine games. The Suns held him to 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting.
“It was a physical game, kind of slow-paced and grinding,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought they were definitely trying to out-physical us and we hung in there really good. It could probably have gone either way.”
The Raptors were missing fourth-leading scorer Gary Trent Jr. (16.4 points per game) and fifth-leading scorer Scottie Barnes (14.7) because of injuries.
“We didn’t have Scottie, we didn’t have Gary – those are two big pieces for us – but we hung in there,” forward Chris Boucher said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well. There’s a lot of things that didn’t go our way, but we still figured out a way to stay in the game.”
The Pistons were blown out by Chicago 133-87 on Tuesday, one night after rallying from a 22-point deficit to defeat Utah 126-116. The Bulls outscored them 72-35 in the second half. In Detroit’s last three losses, the margins have been 29, 30 and 46 points.
“We have to learn how to play with success,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “This team was talking about how we beat Utah the night before, so they came out ready to play.”
Casey was back on the bench in Chicago after a false positive forced him to miss the comeback against the Jazz, when the Pistons scored 78 second-half points. The offensive execution fell apart against the Bulls, the team with the Eastern Conference’s best record.
Detroit won its first meeting with Toronto 127-121 on Nov. 13. The Pistons will visit Canada on March 3.