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Raptors bounce back with much-needed win over Suns

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It was the only answer that would have been acceptable.

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The Raptors, called out by their head coach for their efforts the night before, responded with one of their most aggressive and complete games of the season with a 113-104 win.

That it was against a Suns team, who arrived in Toronto after losing four of five and in a similar spirit of desperation as the Raptors, made it all the more special.

It was the Raptors’ first home win since Dec. 7 when they handled the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Raptors were still without the services of point guard Fred VanVleet and the anticipated boost from the return of Precious Achiuwa proved premature, meaning it was up to the very people whose efforts were called into question the night before.

Nurse returned to a more traditional starting XI when Gary Trent Jr. returned to his previous role, and he answered the bell at both ends of the court with a team-high and a season-high personal high of 35 points, including 18 in the third quarter, and closing to the rest of his teammates to bring back their seasonal penchant for flipping their opponents.

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Trent Jr. was one of three Raptors to have at least three steals in the game, along with Scottie Barnes and Thad Young, who had four when they returned to the rotation after failing to see the floor at all in Thursday’s loss.

Those 10 steals were part of a season-high 27 forced turnovers by the Raptors.

The game was by no means a walk in the park for the Raptors, but the smile finally came with just over two minutes to go when rookie Christian Koloko pulled out a three-pointer from the corner that had every Raptor in uniform grinning from ear to ear.

Not only were they thrilled with their young teammate having his own fair share of struggles, but that three-ball turned a three-point lead into a five-point lead.

Koloko finished the night with eight points, but those three and a drive to the foul line on next possession where he hit one of two was enough to keep it in the winning column for the Raptors.

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The Suns were also without a number of key players, none greater than Devin Booker, who is the team’s top scorer.

Throw in Cam Johnson and Cameron Payne, who are also unable to answer the bell, leaving veteran Chris Paul as the only healthy point guard on the list.

None of that mattered to the Raptors, who came out determined to stem the bleed and end the year on a winning streak.

Mission accomplished.


Losses are piling up, smiles and good times are becoming fewer and fewer. Everything is being questioned, from the players’ efforts to the coaching staff’s plans to the way the squad was put together by management. No one is immune if you’ve lost 11 of the last 15.

In the midst of back-to-back training with no training time, Nick Nurse assembled his troops for the daily film session.

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As bad as Thursday’s loss in a tough matchup to Memphis was, there were no quiet things from Nurse the day after.

In a 20-minute session on Friday, which would have been much, much longer had another game not been scheduled for the same day, Nurse’s voice was the only one in the room.

“I’m probably not going to beam on the soft side and say, ‘It was just a one-night thing,'” Nurse said when asked about his approach to the 20-minute talk. “I will show them the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ll show them I’m not flinching from all that stuff. I will show them what they need to do better. I think that’s the only way to teach them.”

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