TORONTO (CP) — Barely a quarter of the way into their season of sharing the ball more, the Toronto Raptors are having success.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points apiece in the Raptors’ 126-113 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, Toronto’s fourth consecutive win.
But more telling was the fact seven Raptors scored in double figures. And Toronto, which made a goal of amping up its ball movement this season, had 30 assists — the 10th time they’ve surpassed 25 assists this season, a feat they only achieved nine times all of last season.
“It makes it a lot easier, which makes it a lot more fun,” DeRozan said. ”Everybody gets a chance to touch the ball, you don’t necessarily got to work so hard. Everybody gets a feel for the ball, everybody gets to make the next decision for your teammate, and with that, we still miss a lot of shots, but it’s something we’re still learning and something we’re still trying to get better at every time we practise, every time we play.”
Serge Ibaka finished with 19 points, rookie OG Anunoby tied his career high of 16 — including four three-pointers, C.J. Miles added 15, and Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleet scored 13 each.
Lowry had 10 assists on the night, while DeRozan had eight.
“When you’re making shots, it’s good, and the confidence we all have in each other to take shots and to give the opportunity to shoot the ball and we don’t care, it’s always good,” Lowry said. ”As long as we keep the confidence going and make plays, we’re all going to look good, we’re always going to have the high-assist games.”
For the first time in Raptors history, the team allowed zero offensive rebounds.
Devin Booker had 19 points to top Jay Triano’s Suns (9-17), but left the game with a strained adductor (groin) with about three minutes left to play.
The Raptors (15-7) led by double digits for most of the night and lit it up for 42 points in the third quarter to take a 97-79 advantage into the fourth.
Despite playing their second game in as many nights, the young Suns went on a 11-2 run to cut the deficit to 10 points with 8:37 to play. The Suns’ burst was short-lived though, and VanVleet drained a pair of free throws to follow up a Lowry three-pointer and the Raptors were back up by 18 with 4:49 to play in front of a capacity Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,800 that included Dikembe Mutombo. The NBA hall of famer was in town for Raptors president Masai Ujiri’s “Giant of Africa” event honouring Nelson Mandela on the fourth anniversary of his death.
Ibaka paid tribute to Mutombo with a famous finger wag after one of his three blocks.
DeRozan said Ibaka is looking more comfortable than he did earlier in the season.
“We don’t know how old Serge really is. Sometimes he looks like he’s 28, sometimes he looks like he’s 38,” DeRozan said, laughing. ”He’s been looking 28 lately.”
The game marked the return of Triano, the former Raptors coach and Canadian, who was named the Suns’ interim head coach after Earl Watson was fired just three games into the season.
The Suns, who’ve played on back-to-back nights seven times already this season, were coming off a 115-101 win at Philadelphia on Monday. T.J. Warren, who’d had 25 points against Philly, picked up two technicals Tuesday and was ejected in the third quarter.
Lowry had three three-pointers as part of a 13-point performance in the first quarter, and the Raptors took a 17-point lead on a driving reverse layup by Norman Powell with 33 seconds left in the frame. Toronto took a 36-23 advantage into the second.
The Suns used an 11-2 run to pull to within six points late in the first half, and Toronto led 55-46 at the break.
DeRozan led the way with 12 points in the Raptors’ red-hot third quarter.
DeRozan’s humorous celebration after shooting technicals have become a big hit on social media — he slaps hands with imaginary teammates.
After doing it again Tuesday, DeRozan joked: “They’re my imaginary friends, they rolled with me to the game today, so I gave them some love.”
The Raptors play their next four games on the road, starting Friday in Memphis. They’ll play at Sacramento, Los Angeles (Clippers), and Phoenix before returning home to host Brooklyn on Dec. 15.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press