The Phoenix Suns’ margin of error in their shorthanded state isn’t much, and given the quality of basketball they’ve been playing in the month of December, it’s asking a lot for them to nail that window.
What Phoenix has been unable to avoid the last two games is shooting itself in the foot to a high degree, neutralizing some good play in other areas. A poor defensive effort in Wednesday’s loss to the Washington Wizards was followed by an awful lack of ball management in Friday’s 113-104 defeat against the Toronto Raptors.
The Suns had a season-high 27 turnovers, canceling out Chris Paul’s best performance of the season, balanced scoring across the roster and great stick-to-itiveness by staying in the game through the mistakes to even lead by two with under five minutes to go.
Toronto’s Gary Trent Jr. quickly answered with a fallaway jumper for two of his 35 points on the evening. After Paul missed his patented elbow jumper on the right side, Raptors wing Scottie Barnes drilled a 3. Three combined scoreless possessions was followed by the Suns picking up their 27th turnover on an eight-second violation, with Paul failing to rush the ball up after a deflected pass from Deandre Ayton had already taken a few ticks off that counter. Raptors rookie Christian Koloko then nailed a corner 3, the first triple of his career, for the back-breaker to put Toronto up six.
For the second straight game, Paul looked like the Point God, as he was manipulating the game and orchestrating in the way he normally has throughout his career. While he had some of those turnovers too with six, his 20 points, five rebounds and 12 assists were a look at the All-NBA form he’s still capable of.
The Suns ended the first half with 15 turnovers, and despite shooting 58%, they were down two.
Phoenix proceeded to come out of halftime by committing turnovers on five of its first six possessions. While the Raptors throw in some tricky defenses and have more length than any other team, the majority of the goofs by the Suns were ones you’d file under inexcusable.
Those continued to come, denying a great game from the Suns bench influencing a win.
All five reserves that got run scored at least six points. Duane Washington Jr. scored 11, Jock Landale grabbed 11 rebounds and Ish Wainright had three steals to go with his nine points.
Deandre Ayton was 2-for-10, a rare off night in his efficiency and he had a few plays in crunch time he would have liked to get back. Mikal Bridges added 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
The Raptors got 68% of their points from three players: Trent (35), Pascal Siakam (26) and O.G. Anunoby (16).
Toronto came into Friday losers in eight of its last 10 games, sharing parallels with the Suns in terms of being thought of as contenders that are underachieving while lacking a consistent night in and night out effort on the defensive end the last couple of weeks. It was without Fred VanVleet (back) and Precious Achiuwa (ankle), so while it wasn’t necessarily as bad as the Suns’ injury report of no Devin Booker (left hamstring strain), Cam Johnson (meniscus tear), Cam Payne (right foot strain) and Landry Shamet (right Achilles soreness), it was still missing key players.
The Raptors were also on the second game of a back-to-back while Phoenix was coming off two days free of games.
The Suns end the month of December at 5-11 and are now 20-17, one loss away from their season total last year of 18.