Depleted Raptors, Suns hope for return to health

The Phoenix Suns visit the Toronto Raptors on Friday night as both teams look forward to the return of injured players following the All-Star break.

Suns forward Dario Saric is hoping to play Friday after missing seven games with a sprained left ankle.

"I want to be ready for the next game," Saric recently told reporters. "I think I'll be ready to play. For sure something is going to bother me in the next couple of games, but I need to just go through that."

The Suns open a three-game road trip against the Raptors, who hope to have center Marc Gasol back from a hamstring injury soon, but that's unlikely for the game on Friday.

Raptors guard Norman Powell also has been out with a broken finger, and his return is at least a week away.

"Marc came in for some continued treatment today, he's looking good," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said after a Wednesday evening practice. "Norm's a bit away from his next check-up. Within a week we'll get a look at that and see where he's at as well ... We're getting closer to healthy bodies."

Nurse said the team would "wait all the way until we see him go through testing" before determining whether Gasol can play against Phoenix. But the playoffs are the goal, so he might be given even more time off.

Gasol has missed the past eight games and Powell has been out for the past six.

Both teams have dealt with several injuries this season.

Frank Kaminsky (right patella stress fracture) has missed the past 22 games for the Suns and Aron Baynes (sore left hip) has missed 13 in a row.

Kaminsky is expected to be evaluated in another three weeks, but Baynes could return Friday with Deandre Ayton, who has missed the past two games with a sore left ankle.

This will be the first meeting of the season between the teams.

Phoenix has lost six of eight and Toronto has won 15 of the past 16 games. The Raptors had a franchise-best 15-game winning streak stopped by a 101-91 road loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 12, their final game before the break.

The Raptors would like to finish the season with the second seed in the Eastern Conference, but a return to health also is a priority.

"Getting healthy, I think that's about it," Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. "We've got to continue to play well and go out there and try to win every game we can, but I think more so than that, if we're healthy and feeling good towards the end, I think we'll feel good about ourselves.

"Obviously try to get the best seed possible. We'll be fighting for whatever spot we're in, while trying to get healthy and tuning up and just starting to sharpen up a little bit."

The defending NBA champion Raptors won both games between the teams last season and have won four in a row against the Suns.

--Field Level Media