Suns Strokes: Point guards, balanced attack lead Phoenix to blowout of Raptors
The Phoenix Suns’ talented point guard trio — and their new starting lineup — appears to be hitting its stride.
Point guards Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas combined for 56 points on 21-of-33 shooting from the floor, and the Suns used a balanced inside-outside attack to dominate the road-weary Toronto Raptors in a 125-109 win Sunday at US Airways Center.
The Suns (20-16) led by as many as 28 points and posted their highest season point total in a non-overtime game. They’ve reached the century mark in each of their last eight contests.
“We could’ve won that game by 40 if we left our starters in, so they played great,” said Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, who was proud of his team for not allowing the Raptors (24-10) back into the game once they built a large lead.
“A lot of times we’ll get up by 15, 16, then we kind of put it on cruise control for a little bit and let it get back down to eight or 10 and then we go again. But they had the foot on the gas the whole night. If they play like that, we’re going to win a ton of games and have a chance.”
The Raptors concluded a six-game road trip Sunday and will return to Canada with their first three-game losing streak of the season. They fell in overtime at Portland on Tuesday and were routed at Golden State on Friday.
“We have a lot of experience being on the road this season, and the last game of the road trip is the toughest one because you’re excited, you want to go home quick and then maybe you’re not so focused for the game,” Dragic said. “We tried to take advantage of those small things, and we did it.”
The Suns are now 8-2 with their starting lineup of Dragic, Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Alex Len.
“I think we’re just playing better overall with all our guys,” Hornacek said. “It seemed to be a revolving door on who was going to have the off game. We could never get everybody playing well the same day.
“During this stretch of games, nobody’s really having a bad game. They may have a little bit of an off game and not a great game, but they’re still doing good things. You put nine, 10 guys out there that can do that, you can win.”
The Suns’ nine primary players Sunday gelled as well as they have all season. Seven guys scored in double figures, and two more — P.J. Tucker and Miles Plumlee — added nine points.
Phoenix scored 64 points on 32-of-50 shooting in the paint.
“I think this was the most complete game that we had this season,” Dragic said. “We were focused from the first minute to the last minute of the game on offense, defense.
“We jumped on them early. When you put the ball on the floor and get in the middle of the paint, you have a lot of options. You can finish, you can pass out (for) 3s and jump shots, so I think that was the key thing.”
The Suns used a 27-7 run that included three 3-pointers by Thomas to turn a 13-9 first-quarter deficit into a 36-20 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter. They forced 13 first-half turnovers — more than the Raptors’ average of 11.2 for an entire game — and led by as many as 19 points in the first half. Phoenix’s 43 second-quarter points and 70 first-half points were a season high.
Bledsoe, Dragic and Thomas all scored in double figures in the first half, combining for 35 points on 14-of-20 shooting.
The Suns made exactly two-thirds of their field-goal attempts (30-of-45, 66.7 percent) and went 6-for-11 from 3-point range in the first two quarters. They shot 53.9 percent for the game.
Len had a strong first half and Plumlee picked up where his fellow center left off in the second half. Len scored all 10 of his points off 5-of-6 shooting in 15 first-half minutes, while Plumlee added nine points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes, most of which came after halftime.
Bledsoe did a good job of containing Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. The point guard had 19 points but was limited to 6-of-17 shooting from the floor. Toronto shot 45.8 percent from the field as a team.
Keep an eye out for the Archie Goodwin dunk poster. The second-year guard threw down a vicious jam over Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas with just over three minutes to play to bring the crowd to its feet. Goodwin had a season-high 12 points in nine fourth-quarter minutes.
It didn’t matter Sunday, but Markieff Morris had one of his quietest games of the season, scoring just six points on 3-of-8 shooting in 30 minutes. He did add six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The Suns continue to struggle with Valanciunas. The 7-foot center had 21 points (on 9-of-14 shooting) and 10 rebounds Sunday. Valanciunas had 27 points and 11 rebounds in the Raptors’ last meeting with Phoenix, a 104-100 win in Toronto on Nov. 24.
Getting into nit-picky territory: The Suns came into the game shooting an NBA-best 80.3 percent from the free-throw line, but they were just 75 percent (21-of-28) Sunday.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Suns’ 34 fast-break points Sunday marked the third time this season they’ve had at least 30. They’re 3-0 in those games.
HE SAID IT
“It was pretty good. Archie’s long, he can jump and when he gets space to move and fly like that … You know, we see it in practice. He does stuff like that.” -Hornacek on Goodwin’s dunk.
The Suns held a moment of silence before the game for longtime ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, who passed away Sunday at age 49 after a long battle with cancer.
Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan missed his 18th straight game with a groin injury. DeRozan, who is averaging 19.4 points per game in 16 games this season, is expected to return to the lineup for Toronto’s next game, at home against the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.
Plenty of winter visitors paid a visit to US Airways Center Sunday, as there were quite a few Raptors fans in the crowd. At one point, a brief “Let’s go Raptors” chant broke out, albeit with Toronto down by 22 points in the fourth quarter.
The Suns brought in Arizona Coyotes’ national anthem singer Patrick Lauder to sing “O’ Canada” in honor of the Raptors’ presence.
The Suns go back on the road to take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. The Suns will look to avenge a home loss to the Bucks via a buzzer-beater Dec. 15.
Tip-off is at 6 p.m. The pregame show will begin 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.