Suns Bench Scores 51, Lifts Suns Past Raptors
The Suns took a four game losing streak to Toronto to take on the Raptors. The Raptors have been hot this season, and were coming off a win against the Washington Wizards the previous night. This was the first game of a road trip where the Suns will play six games in nine nights.
Tyson Chandler sat out the night with a knee injury he sustained in the game against Golden State, so Alex Len got the start. Len got some looks early, with a hook shot on Bismack Biyombo, and then followed it up on the next possession with a finger roll. The Suns jumped to a 9-3 lead off of a Bledsoe shot from deep on the following possession. PJ Tucker got into some early foul trouble, giving TJ Warren some early minutes. Warren proceeded to use the minutes to get a quick score in to pick up where he left off against Golden State. The Raptors were able to tie the game at 11 on back to back 3’s from Demarre Carroll and Kyle Lowry. Both teams had a mixture of sloppy shots and good defensive possessions, with the quarter ending with a 21-18 score in favor of the Suns.
The backup bigs in John Leuer and Mirza Teletovic were able to start the second quarter hot, with Teletovic hitting four shots from deep and Leuer was able to add in two shots from deep of his own. The bench was big for the Suns the entire night, and the two bigs were able to push the Suns lead to four at the half, with a score of 53-49.
Markieff Morris sat most of the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul in the early minutes, pushing Leuer into more minutes. The Raptors tied up the game at 61 off of a Lowry jump shot, but the Suns were able to pull out to another lead, outscoring the Raptors 20-11 throughout the rest of the quarter.
The bench continued to play strong in the fourth quarter, with Warren hitting a reverse lay up, and then two other lay ups in the opening of the fourth. This coupled with back to back three pointers in between two of Warren’s layups. DeRozan tied the game at 95 for the Raptors, and gave them a 97-96 lead the following possession on a jumper. The Suns followed up DeRozan’s jumper with seven quick points from Morris, Bledsoe, and Tucker. Brandon Knight fouled Lowry behind the 3 point line 13 second left, letting the Raptors get within two. Bledsoe went one of two from the free throw line after the three free throws from Lowry. With time winding down, Bledsoe was able to block Luis Scola’s attempt from deep, giving the Suns the win with a score of 107-102.
Bledsoe had an off night, but continued to play strong defense. Bledsoe scored 20 points off of 5-17 shooting, but the big stats were his 11 assists, three blocks, and three turnovers. Even on an ‘off’ night, Bledsoe continues to show the league just how good he is. The Suns lean on his and Tucker’s defense, and he is the major spark of the offense, whether it be through scoring or distributing.
The bench played strong tonight, and the tighter rotation of Price-Warren-Teletovic-Leuer payed off. Teletovic scored 20 points, shooting 6-7 from deep, Leuer scored 16 shooting 60% from the field, and Warren added 15 points with 11 rebounds, a steal and three blocks of his own. If the bench can score even slightly like this every night, the Suns will be a force to be reckoned with.
Outside of Bledsoe and Tucker, the rest of the team played mediocre defense, and missed defensive rotations that lead to open 3’s for the Raptors. This has been an issue for the Suns the entire season, and eventually will need to be addressed.
The only starters who shot 50% from the field tonight were Len, who shot 4-8, and Tucker, who shot 2-4. Morris shot 3-12 from the field, Knight had 6-17, and as mentioned Bledsoe shot 5-17. It was a cold shooting night for these players, but they were bailed out by the bench scoring 51. Morris has not been efficient this season outside of a couple of games, averaging 13.1 attempts per game, but only making 5.2. Morris needs to get his head in the game and make smarter choices on offense, or the Suns might be forced to consider cutting back some of his minutes to make way for a hot hand of either Leuer or Teletovic.