Well, the last time these two teams squared off, the Raps got an old fashioned ass-kicking. They manged to score 123 points, but they still lost by 13 and even that margin was complimentary considering how poorly they played. The Raptors D was invisible, making it easy for 7 Suns players to reach double digits (including Barbosa’s 35 point effort), fueled by Nash’s 18 assists. If the Raptors have a defensive effort (or lack thereof) like last night, this game could get uglier than Sarah Jessica Parker.
The good thing for the Raptors is that the Suns have not been playing well lately, winning two of their last 6 and starting games like they had been out partying the night before. It has been almost 4 years since the Raptors have won in Phoenix, so you could say that they are due and that the time to break that streak might come tonight. The problem is, the difference between the Suns and the Raptors is that when the Suns get into a little funk like the one they are currently in, they find games like this one to get back on track. Good teams beat the teams they are supposed to beat and as much as I love the Raptors, this is a game that the Suns have to think they should be able to win quite easily.
A big question for the Raptors will be which Amare Stoudemire is going to show up tonight? Are we going to see the Amare who only missed two shots against the Raps last time out and dropped 25 on them and is coming off a 25 point, 9 rebound, 4 block performance against the Mavs or are we going to see the Amare who strangely disappears and becomes Mr. Invisible? You would think it would be tough to become invisible with Nash feeding you the ball, but somehow, every once in a while, Stoudemire just doesn’t come up with the passion and dominance that he should.
You have to like Mike D’Antoni as a coach. He has his team well prepared and when they get into rough stretches, he finds ways to get them out. He makes great adjustments during the game (you can also attribute a lot of that to Nash), but what I like most about him is that he really seems to enjoy being at the arena every night. It’s not abnormal to see D’Antoni having a laugh on the bench when something funny happens during the game, but then again, I guess it is a lot easier to laugh when your team is doing well most nights. Sam might laugh to keep from crying during Raptors games.
The Raptors are going to have to try to slow this game down, because if they try to run with the Suns, it’s over. Use a lot of the clock and try to work low in the post, then kick out if nothing is there. They have some great outside shooters, but I just hope it doesn’t get to the point where we have to rely on them to keep the game close. We will need Hump to clear some space inside, making room for his teammates, but we will also need a strong defensive performance from him (really, the Raptors need a strong performance from everybody tonight). I would also like to see Jose expose Nash’s defensive deficiencies, as Nash isn’t very strong defending off the dribble, so Jose might be able to get to the rim.
Enjoy the game.