Suns Show Life In 104-97 Loss to Raptors
After the recent firing of Jeff Hornaceck, the Suns played their first game with Earl Watson as the interim head coach. Watson had his hands full, looking to coach the struggling Suns against the Toronto Raptors. The Suns put up a strong effort, but couldn’t finish, with a final score of 104-97. The Suns will play their next game on Thursday against the Houston Rockets.
The Suns came out of the gate as if their head coach had just been fired, playing with energy. They jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, including an almost poster by Archie Goodwin on Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors were able to quickly tie up the game at 11 points thanks in part to a tip in and an and-one. After a few back and forth possessions, the Suns were able to push out to another seven point lead, with a score of 24-17. The Raptors went on another run, and tied the game at 24 with a corner three from Kyle Lowry. Demar DeRozan kept the Raptors up 29-28 with 2.7 seconds left in the the first quarter, but that was the perfect amount of time for Goodwin. ‘The Arch’ put up a buzzer beating three to end the quarter, giving the Suns a 32-28 lead to end the quarter. Markieff Morris was the leading scorer for the Suns in the first quarter, scoring 14 points on 6-9 shooting.
The second quarter didn’t start nearly as well for the Suns, and started the quarter on the wrong side of a 7-2 run before Coach Watson took a timeout. The Raptors kept on scoring, and pushed their lead to 46-35. The Suns continued to show fight, and were able to shorten the gap with a 10-2 run to make the score 48-45, spurred by a second chance lay up by Goodwin. The half ended with the Suns down 52-45, shooting 17-36(47.2%) from the field but turned the ball over 10 times in the half.
The Suns kept the game between six and eight points as the third quarter progressed, fighting the Raptors every step of the way. Every time the Raptors tried to push their lead to double digits, the Suns kept fighting their way back into the game. Another ferocious dunk by Morris, as well as a three by Devin Booker brought the Suns within one, with a score of 71-70. The Suns unfortunately couldn’t get it any closer, and ended the third down 78-71.
The Raptors started to pull ahead in the fourth, and the Suns were down by as many as 12 points. The surging Morris kept the Suns in the game, hitting a three pointer and forcing the Raptors to foul him on a dunk attempt. After being down by 14 points, the Suns young back court started to catch fire, With Goodwin hitting a three point shot, followed by two more three pointers from Booker. Booker and Goodwin continued to score, and even though they played strong defense, it didn’t stop DeRozan from hitting a heavily contested three with the shot clock hitting zero. The Suns got within five, but couldn’t hit another shot, falling to the Raptors 104-97. The Suns shot 37-79(46.8%) from the field and out rebounded the Raptors 38-35.
Markieff Morris played 41 and a half minutes, and produced in those minutes. He scored 30 points on 13-20 shooting with 11 rebounds, six assists, and added a steal and two blocks. This is how the Suns expected Morris to play this season, with efficient scoring and getting touches in crunch time. Whether he is traded or not, this is how the Suns hope he can play throughout the rest of the season.
Devin Booker had quite a game himself. The leading rookie scorer in the month of January scored 27 points on 9-19 shooting from the floor, with 6-14 coming from behind the arc. He added five rebounds and two steals, fighting on both sides of the floor. Even though he was snubbed from the Rising Star Challenge, Booker is proving himself to be one of the best rookies from this class, and a bright spot in an otherwise dim Suns season.
While Archie Goodwin didn’t score over 20 points, he still had a strong game to help push the Suns. Scoring 18 points on 7-12 shooting, he hit both three pointers he attempted, and added in 12 assists. This was his first career double-double, and he showed his willingness to pass the ball. He turned the ball over a couple times trying to force a pass, but that is a minor complaint in an otherwise strong performance.