The Toronto Raptors have already suffered their worst loss of the season and relinquished their cushion for the top spot in the Eastern Conference on a demanding road trip.
They’re now trying to get out of it without adding their first three-game losing streak to the list of scrapes as they conclude the six-game trip Sunday night against the Phoenix Suns.
The Raptors (24-9) are 2-3 on the trip and have lost consecutive games for just the second time this season after Friday’s 126-105 loss in Golden State. It was easily their worst loss of the year and just their second by double digits, but coach Dwane Casey still thinks it can be a successful trip.
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"I like the way we’ve played this entire trip," Casey said. "Last night, it didn’t come out the way we wanted it to. In our hearts, we know they’re not (21) points better. They made some shots. They made us pay for every mistake we made defensively, and even when we played good defense they made shots.
"… We know who we are. We know how we have to play, but tomorrow night’s game is more important as far as momentum going back home more than a make-or-break road trip."
DeMar DeRozan is expected to miss the game, but his 18th contest sidelined with a torn muscle in his left groin could be his last. The team’s No. 2 scorer is expected to return Thursday against Charlotte as the Raptors begin a six-game homestand.
The Warriors shot 53.3 percent, which for Toronto opponents this season trails only Chicago (54.1 percent) in the opening game of the trip.
"Their small ball really got to us," Kyle Lowry said. "I think they kind of just went up and down a little bit too fast at a pace we didn’t really want."
That could again be the case against the Suns, who have averaged 113.4 points per game while shooting 49.1 percent and 41.3 percent from 3-point range over a 7-2 span.
At the other end, the Raptors were led by Greivis Vasquez’s season-high 25 points off the bench, while fellow guard Kyle Lowry had 22. With DeRozan out, Lowry has averaged 22.7 per game after managing 18.6 in the first 16 games of the season.
That stretch included a 104-100 home win over Phoenix (19-16) on Nov. 24 behind a career night from Jonas Valanciunas. The center scored 27 points on 10-of-11 shooting with 11 rebounds.
Despite two losses to the West on the trip, the Raptors have more wins against the West than any other team from the East at 9-4. Phoenix is perplexingly 3-5 at home against the East with losses to Charlotte, Orlando, Miami, Detroit and Milwaukee.
The Suns avoided a similar fate and got back on track with Friday’s 112-96 win over Philadelphia following consecutive losses.
Markieff Morris and Gerald Green each scored 21, while Eric Bledsoe chipped in 17. Bledsoe is averaging 20.6 over his last eight games and scored 25 in the first meeting with Toronto.
Green’s performance was perhaps most pleasing for the Suns after being held to 11.5 points on 33.3 percent over his past four games.
"It just took them a little while," said coach Jeff Hornacek after his team went into halftime trailing 59-57. "They kind of got on themselves at halftime and said, ‘OK, let’s go.’"
Toronto has won four of six in the series after dropping 14 straight to the Suns.