Raptors look to bounce back versus Suns (Dec 29, 2016)

BY AP • December 29, 2016

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The Toronto Raptors hope to regain their winning ways on the road Thursday night when they make the fourth stop on a six-game trip to face the Phoenix Suns.

The Raptors not only played Wednesday night, but were involved in a bit of a track meet with the Golden State Warriors in a 121-111 setback.

Guards Kyle Lowry (40) and DeMar DeRozan (39) both put in heavy minutes, and reserves Terrence Ross (34) and Patrick Patterson (33) also were called upon for extensive duty, leaving the Raptors in an unenviable position against the Suns.

Phoenix also played Wednesday night, but coach Earl Watson was much more stingy with the big minutes in a 119-98 loss at San Antonio.

None of the Suns starters played more than 29 minutes in the loss, during which the Phoenix reserves tallied 58 of the club's 98 points.

Despite the setback at Golden State, the Raptors seek to build upon what has been a historic start on the road. Toronto had won a franchise-record seven straight away from home before running into the West's top team Wednesday.

The Suns are at the other end of the West's spectrum. Their loss Wednesday dropped them to 9-23, tied with Dallas for the worst record in the conference.

No doubt, the highlight of Phoenix's consecutive losses at Houston and San Antonio on a three-day trip was the play of rookie Dragan Bender.

The No. 4 pick in June had been one of the biggest disappointments of the Top 10, limited to five points or fewer in 27 of the Suns' first 30 games, before living up to the pre-draft hype with 11- and 10-point outings against the Rockets and Spurs.

Fellow rookie Marquese Chriss, the No. 8 overall selection, also had a nice trip, recording 12- and 13-point games.

"We are a young group trying to establish a culture and that can't be done overnight," Watson noted after the game. "We have to be a defensive team all four quarters and keep our focus. Turnovers hurt us, but with a young team, turnovers are going to happen."

Suns fans hope to see more of the positives at home, where their club has recorded a league-low five wins this season.

Adding a sixth against the Atlantic Division leader won't be easy. Down by as many as 25 points Wednesday night, the Raptors made even the Warriors fight for their win.

"I like our fight. I love our grit that we showed," Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters after the game. "We could have given in. It was a 20-point game. They pounced on us. We kept fighting, and that will take us a long way."

The loss at Golden State had a historic moment for the Raptors when DeRozan's 15th of 29 points moved him past Chris Bosh and into the top spot on the franchise's all-time scoring list.

DeRozan, in his eighth NBA season, finished the night with 10,290 career points, 15 more than Bosh, who played his first seven seasons for Toronto.



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