The weary-looking Toronto Raptors dropped a 117-106 decision to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, suffering their only loss in three scrimmages in the NBA’s restart.
Pascal Siakam had 17 points, Norman Powell scored 14 off the bench, and Fred VanVleet, who was back after missing most of Sunday’s scrimmage with a minor knee injury, had 13.
Kyle Lowry had 11 points, seven assists, and took a couple of charges.
Mikal Bridges had 26 points to top the Suns, while Ricky Rubio chipped in with 22.
Four days before the Raptors tip off their eight-game seeding round against the Los Angeles Lakers, coach Nick Nurse gave his starters more minutes.
But playing their third game in five days, and coming off an unheard-of four-month layoff due to COVID-19, the defending NBA champions were both sloppy and a step behind the Suns, who are 13th in the Western Conference and have the worst record of the 22 teams in the bubble (26-39).
Toronto trailed 35-29 after one quarter. A Lowry three-pointer capped a 7-0 Raptors run and pulled Toronto to within four points late in the half. The Suns took a 66-60 advantage into the break.
Marc Gasol’s three-pointer early in the third gave Toronto its first lead of the game — 73-72 — but it was short-lived as the Suns outscored the Raptors 25-7 to the end of the quarter and led 97-86 with one quarter left.
Nurse went to his bench in the fourth and the Raptors never threatened.
Turnovers cost Toronto — the Raptors committed 28 to the Suns’ 19.
The Raptors, who were second in the Eastern Conference (46-18) when the league shuttered March 11, have the toughest schedule of the NBA restart, including games against Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston and Miami.
The Raptors beat Portland 94-83 in their first scrimmage, then downed Portland 110-104.
The scrimmages weren’t just a warmup for players and coaches, it was a chance for the league and broadcasters to work out some glitches in these unprecedented circumstances. A virtual ad flickered on the court briefly in Tuesday’s game. The scoreboard for the TV broadcast at times showed the incorrect score, or disappeared altogether, and the referees had shot-clock issues.
In a state reeling from the coronavirus — Florida reported another 9,000 new cases on Tuesday — Disney World’s NBA campus is a unique view of sports’ return to action. Bench players have their own seats with name tags that are spread over three rows. Coaches wear masks. The scoring staff is protected behing a plexiglass window. Players are tested daily.