April 15, 2014

While the Toronto Raptors have turned things around on defense during an impressive winning streak, the slumping Phoenix Suns are struggling to slow their opponents.

Things could get worse before they get better if Tyson Chandler remains out.

In a matchup of two high-scoring backcourts, the Raptors seek their fifth consecutive victory Sunday night against a visiting Suns team trying to avoid a five-game skid.

Since allowing an average of 101.7 points on 46.5 percent shooting in the last six of a 2-6 stretch, Toronto has limited opponents to 88.0 per game and a 40.3 field-goal percentage in its past four.

The Raptors trailed by as many as 10 on Saturday but held Washington without a field goal over the final 4:24 before Cory Joseph hits a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give them an 84-82 road win.

"As long as there's time on the clock, it don't matter, anything can happen," guard DeMar DeRozan said. "As long as we stay with it until the last second comes off the clock, we feel we have a chance."

Kyle Lowry led the way with 27 points and was 6 of 11 from 3-point range, while DeRozan added 23 to help Toronto (11-6) overcome a season-high 22 turnovers. Lowry and DeRozan are one of only three backcourts averaging at least 20 points apiece.

DeRozan finished with 23 in a 104-100 win over the Suns on Nov. 24, 2014, in the most recent meeting at Toronto, but did not play in a 125-109 loss in Phoenix on Jan. 4.

The Raptors have defeated three 2014-15 playoff clubs during their run, including the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland. Tied for the fewest home games among Eastern Conference teams, they can take advantage of a favorable stretch with seven of the next eight coming at Air Canada Centre.

Phoenix (7-9) makes its first stop on a five-game trip after allowing season highs in points, field-goal percentage (56.8) and 3-point percentage (57.9) in Friday's 135-116 loss to Golden State. The Suns let the Warriors hit 22 of 38 from beyond the arc, falling one shy of the NBA record for 3s.

"We had defensive breakdowns with the flow of the game," said T.J. Warren, who had a career-high 28 points. "That's part of basketball. We just have to keep playing hard through the adversity."

The Suns haven't been able to do that during their season-high losing streak, allowing an average of 118.8 points on 51.4 percent shooting - including 47.3 from beyond the arc.

Making matters worse, Chandler, their primary rim protector and leading rebounder with 8.8 per game, is doubtful after straining his right hamstring in the first quarter Friday.

At least Phoenix won't have to worry about Jonas Valanciunas, who totaled 48 points and 21 rebounds in last season's series. The 7-footer is expected to miss six weeks with a broken left hand.

Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe each scored 21 on a combined 18-of-32 shooting against the Warriors. They're the league's only backcourt averaging 21 points or more each.

"You've got to pick your poison," Bledsoe, who totaled 45 points versus Toronto last season, told the team's official website. "Is it going to be me or Brandon?"

Since winning 14 in a row in the series, the Suns have lost four of the past seven meetings.

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