Toronto Raptors v Phoenix Suns

The Raptors snapped their five-game losing streak by putting an absolute beat down on the hapless Suns in Phoenix.

Here are some thoughts on the game…

Raptors 98, Suns 71

- The big story in this game was that Dwane Casey elected to go with Sebastian Telfair as his backup point guard instead of John Lucas III, and it certainly paid off for the Raptors. As regular RaptorBlog readers know, I’ve been hoping to see Telfair on the floor instead of Lucas for some time now, as when JL3′s shot isn’t falling, he’s a detriment to the team because he doesn’t move the ball on offence and isn’t big enough to be a factor on defence. On Wednesday night in Phoenix, Telfair was as active defensively as Kyle Lowry usually is, if not more so, and there wasn’t any letdown in perimeter defence between the starters and the bench. More importantly, Telfair acted as a true point guard in running the second unit and looking for his teammates on every possession (until the game got out of hand, at which point Telfair started chucking, himself).

The end result was Telfair posting 13 points, seven assists and four steals in 26:38 of playing time off of the bench. Just for the record, Lucas hasn’t posted seven assists in a game at all this season.

I’m sure the reason Casey went with Telfair in this game is because the point guard was fired up to face his former team, and I know putting up good numbers in a blowout win over this Suns team means next to nothing, but Telfair should be given a chance to be this team’s backup point guard over the final 20 games since, you know, he’s the only other actual point guard on the team after Lowry. Hopefully we see him before Lucas on Friday night in L.A.

- The 71 points scored by the Suns was a season low in points allowed for the Raptors this year and this marks the first time in franchise history that Toronto has defeated Phoenix on three straight occasions.

- As is usual for teams in blowout victories, the Raptors didn’t have any big individual scorers tonight, but they did have six players in double figures with Telfair, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Alan Anderson, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas all scoring between 10-15 points. In addition, all 11 Raptors who played in this game scored at least three points.

- Terrence Ross has been in an awful shooting slump, and as much as we’d all like him to get minutes, he wasn’t doing much to earn that time recently, so it was nice to see the rookie out there for more than 21 minutes tonight and getting the chance to work through some of his struggles on the court. Ross made just three of his seven attempts from the field, but he also hit two of his three attempts from behind the arc.

- As for the Raptors’ other rookie – the one who does deserve more time than he’s getting – I like the fact that in recent games, players are finally starting to look for Jonas Valanciunas under the basket. Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay, especially, seem to be rewarding the big Lithuanian on his hard rolls to the bucket. One thing I’d like Dwane Casey to do now is let Valanciunas stay on the floor when he finds himself in foul trouble. Casey doesn’t usually play JV in crunch time anyway, so I just don’t understand the need to pull him off the floor when he picks up a couple of fouls if you’re not saving him for anything down the stretch.

- This Suns team is just awful, and to make matters worse, they’re in the tough position of having an awful team without having any really promising young players to move forward with. Goran Dragic is a good point guard, but I’m not as convinced as others that he’s a franchise point guard. Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola are 29 and 32, respectively, and the only other player on this team that even mildly intrigues me is rookie point guard Kendall Marshall. In addition, while the Suns are bad, if the season ended today they’d only be on track for the No. 6 pick in a pretty weak Draft, so their only hope to recover next season is if they can turn two potential lottery picks (they have the Lakers’ pick from the Nash deal) into something bigger or if they can turn their cap space and marketable warm weather into a marquee free agent signing.

The more patient approach, and perhaps the most sound one, would be for the Suns to just throw in the towel on next season as well and hope to land one of the potential franchise changing talents expected to emerge in the 2014 NBA Draft.

- All in all, the Raptors blowing out the Suns to snap a five-game losing streak isn’t as impressive as it would have been if the Raps were still in some sort of meaningful race. I’m much more interested in seeing how this team comes out on Friday night in Los Angeles against a Lakers team that is finally starting to come together and inch towards a playoff spot in the West.

Raptors Player Of the Game: Sebastian Telfair – 13 Pts, 5/12 FG, 3/9 3PT, 2 Reb, 7 Ast, 4 Stl, 2 TO in 26:38

Suns Player Of the Game: Marcin Gortat – 8 Pts, 4/6 FG, 0/1 FT, 4 Reb, 1 TO in 11:25 (The Suns were so bad tonight that I think their player of the game was a guy who left the game with an injury in the first quarter)