Trent Jr. matches season-high 35 in Raptors’ 113-104 win over Suns | National Sports
TORONTO — Nick Nurse took out a flyer with a 20-minute rap-on-the-knuckles discourse before his Toronto Raptors took on the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
His game paid off. Led by Gary Trent Jr., who set his season-high with 35 points, the Raptors responded with a 113-104 win to end a two-game losing streak.
The Raptors lost eight of their last 10 entering the competition and after their most recent loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, Nurse felt his team needed to improve in many areas, leading to the pregame presentations.
“It’s not the easiest decision in the world if you do one of these sessions,” admitted Nurse. “I think you roll a bit, and it’s a roll of the dice that turned out.”
Among other things, Nurse told his team that he wanted more pace, better execution and more effort.
“Part of it today was the technical stuff, doesn’t matter,” added Nurse. “It’s like 0.05 percent when the effort isn’t there.”
Victory in their final game of 2022 ended a dismal month that saw the Raptors win 5-10 in December.
“The message was that we just have to play harder,” said Raptor’s rookie center Christian Koloko. “We have to play harder. We watched a lot of clips from the last game. We didn’t have to try.
“Today we started the game and we played really good defence. We were very aggressive. Everyone did a good job. Every time we play like that we have a good chance of winning games.”
But the result was still in doubt towards the end of the fourth quarter. In a 101 tie, Scottie Barnes drilled a three-pointer with 3:16 minutes remaining, followed by a three-pointer from Koloko 1:27 later to give Toronto a six-point lead.
Koloko was an unlikely contact for the game, but the Suns closely guarded Trent and Pascal Siakam. Siakam found Koloko in the corner for his first three-pointer in eight tries this season.
“He saw me,” Koloko said. “Honestly he has no choice because I think he had two men in front of him.
“I knew he was going to pass it on to me as soon as I saw my husband standing (away) from the corner. I said to him after the time-out, ‘I appreciate you believing in me because you trusted me on that last pass.’ It’s the end of the game and I don’t get put in that position every day.”
The win by 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena also resulted in a five-game home slide.
Siakam scored 26 points, OG Anunoby had 16 and Barnes scored 11 for Toronto.
The Suns lost their second straight game and were led by Chris Paul’s 20 points and 12 assists. Mikal Bridges scored 21 points and Torrey Craig added 13 points.
The Raptors had an 86-79 advantage after the three quarters. But Bridges followed a three-pointer with a layup to give the Suns a 99-97 lead with 4:41 remaining.
Toronto held a 33-24 lead after the first quarter, only to see the visitors launch a 12-0 run to start the second and take a 34-33 lead.
But Siakam, Anunoby and Trent put together a 16-5 run for the Raptors to give them the advantage in the first half with less than four minutes to go.
However, the Suns finished strongly to ensure Toronto only had a 53-51 advantage en route to the dressing rooms.
The Raptors were without All-Star guard Fred VanVleet (back spasms) and Precious Achiuwa (ankle). The Suns were missing star Devin Booker (groin strain), Cameron Johnson (ankle), Cameron Payne (foot) and Landry Shamet (Achilles).
Analyst Jack Armstrong was recognized for his 25th year with the Raptors during a hiatus in the second quarter. The 59-year-old Brooklyn, NY native has been part of the team’s broadcasts since the 1998-99 season.
The Raptors start the new year on the road against the Indiana Pacers Monday and return home for a season-high six home games, starting with the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 30, 2022.