After their six-game road trip took an embarrassing turn, the Phoenix Suns could have an ideal opportunity for redemption Friday night.
They will be visiting a city where they've dominated in recent years and facing one of the league's worst teams in a matchup with the sliding Toronto Raptors.
Phoenix (7-9) had won three of four and split the first two games on this trip before a 117-77 loss at Detroit on Wednesday. It was the third-largest margin of defeat in franchise history, and it came against a Pistons team which entered with a 4-11 record.
The game was still within reach at halftime as the Suns trailed by 11, but they were tagged with four technical fouls in the third quarter and the Pistons outscored them 62-33 in the second half.
"We just lost control and we did not play well," point guard Goran Dragic said. "We were frustrated and we lost control and our minds and a couple technicals. We could not make a basket or the right play. Just overall it was a terrible game for us."
Dragic was held to a season-low 10 points for the second time in three games as the Suns shot a season-worst 34.1 percent from the field. They allowed 25 points on a season-high 19 turnovers and let Detroit hit 12 of 16 3-pointers.
"I wish it was an easier way to say this but we (stunk) in every part of the game," coach Alvin Gentry said. "There was nothing that we did that you could say was even NCAA quality. There's not anything to say."
Gentry's team has yet to string together more than two straight wins while ranking last in the league in points allowed (102.6 per game) and opponents' 3-point shooting (43.2 percent).
"We have to find a way to gain consistency in what we are doing," Gentry said. "We cannot play one night where we play well and then come back the next night and not compete."
Maybe playing the struggling Raptors (3-13) will help provide an answer. Toronto owns the NBA's second-worst record and has lost six straight.
Plus, the Suns have won seven in a row north of the border since a loss Jan. 4, 2004. Only one of those games was decided by fewer than 12 points.
Like Phoenix in its last game, the Raptors were within striking distance at the half, losing by one Wednesday at Memphis. They proceeded to shoot 30.6 percent in the second half as they were outscored by 20 en route to a 103-82 defeat.
Poor second-half play has become a troubling trend. The Raptors have led or been tied at halftime in half of their 16 games, and they've been outscored in the second half in seven of the last 10.
"We have to look at it now and be sick and tired of losing coming out of the second half," said DeMar DeRozan, averaging a team-leading 18.1 points. "We have to realize that and understand that we are doing it to ourselves. We have to man up in the second half and jump on other teams."
Second-leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (17.9 ppg) is questionable after an ankle injury forced him to sit out against the Grizzlies. He is averaging 21.4 points in 10 games against the Suns, his highest career mark versus any opponent.
Toronto lost 14 straight in the series before Bargnani scored 36 in a 99-96 win at Phoenix on Jan. 24 in the teams' last meeting.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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