Suns hope to snap skid vs. Raptors

November 2, 2018

PHOENIX -- Toronto and Phoenix undertook major reconstruction in the offseason.

Newcomer Kawhi Leonard has made a seamless transition in first-year coach Nick Nurse's system and the Raptors are off to the best start in franchise history while winning seven of eight.

The Suns are still looking for their rhythm. While No. 1 draft pick Deandre Ayton has put up strong numbers, the team will bring a six-game losing streak into a match against Toronto on Friday at Salt River Arena.

The Raptors (7-1) will begin a four-game road trip that includes stops in Los Angeles for the Lakers, Utah and Sacramento.

"It will be good for us," point guard Kyle Lowry said.

So far, home has been just perfect. The Raptors' 129-112 victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday was their sixth straight at home, coming after it did after Milwaukee broke their season-opening seven-game winning streak Monday.

Lowry also has had six straight games with double-figure assists, a career best. He leads the NBA with an 11.1 average.

Leonard had 31 points against the 76ers and has scored at least 20 points in all six of his games, having been held of two for load management after missing most of last season with a leg injury. He had four assists and a season-high four steals against the 76ers.

"It's similar to his offense," Nurse told reporters when asked about Leonard's ability on the defensive end. "He can score with the ball. He can score without it. He can score in. He can score out.

"He can kind of do the same on defense. He can guard the ball. He can guard people on pin downs. He can guard the post. But mostly I think it is just his natural instinct. Getting his hands-on stuff. Balls popping all of a sudden and, boom, he comes out with it."

Forward Pascal Siakim has given the Raptors strong play in the last two games He had a career-high 22 points and had eight rebounds at Milwaukee on Monday and had 15 points and a career-high 15 points against the 76ers.

The Raptors are averaging 117.4 points a game, fifth in the league, and are shooting 48.1, which ranks sixth.

"I'm just trying to figure it out and find the things I can do to help our group play better," Siakim told reporters. "The guys are trusting me to have the ball in my hands and do different things so I can find ways to score and ways to do dish for anybody.

"Just picking my spots and finding a way to have an impact. I like to run, so whenever we can get stops and run, I think that is a better game for all of us. The more we can do that, the better we look."

Ayton, 7-foot-1, has looked good in his first seven games, averaging 16.9 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He is the first NBA player to average at least 10/10/3 through seven career games since Chris Webber in 1993.

But the Suns have struggled otherwise. Opponents are shooting 51.5 percent from the field, second-highest in the league, and the Suns have committed 18 turnovers a game, second-most in the league.

Guard Devin Booker, their leading scorer has missed the last three games with a strained left hamstring suffered in the third quarter of a 131-113 loss to the Lakers on Oct. 24. He is considered unlikely to return against Toronto. The Suns have been outscored by 21, seven and 30 without Booker.

Coach Igor Kokoskov has looked at different combinations in the absence of Booker, who carries the majority of the scoring load, especially down the stretch.

Forward TJ Warren made his first start of the season in the 120-90 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday and is expected to start again as the Suns look for more offense. Rookie Elie Okobo made his first start of the season at point guard against the Spurs, and rookies DeAnthony Melton and Mikal Bridges also saw extensive time.

Bridges, a 6-foot-7 small forward whom the Suns traded up to select with the 10th pick of the draft, had a career-high 16 points and three assists in 27 minutes against the Spurs. He also had two steals, the fourth time he has had multiple steals in a game.

"We love Mikal," Koskokov said. "He has a bright future in this league and with this franchise. He's growing as a player, getting better every game."

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