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Suns send Raptors to sixth straight loss

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- In his last three games, Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris had missed 17 of 25 shots from the field and scored a total of 23 points. But Friday night, it seemed like Morris was going to hit everything he put up.

Morris made his first 11 shots from the field and collected 25 points and 11 rebounds as the Suns grabbed 18 of their 53 rebounds on the offensive end to hand the Toronto Raptors their sixth consecutive loss, 106-97.

Guard Eric Bledsoe scored 19 points for Phoenix and forward P.J. Tucker had one of his biggest nights as a pro with 17 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as the Suns snapped a three-game losing streak to Toronto and won for the sixth time in their first nine home games.

"I have been working on driving to the basket and getting to the free throw line," said Morris, who didn't attempt a 3-pointer in the game and finished 11 of 14 from the field. "If I am open, I will shoot (a 3-pointer). But I've been shooting a lot of them and I'm just trying to get inside out for now. But I still work on them in case (the defense) is sleeping."

Amir Johnson scored a season-high 22 points off the bench and guard Kyle Lowry added 21 points and seven assists for the Raptors, playing in their first game since blowing a 27-point lead in the second half at home to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.

This time, the Raptors lost both a game and forward Tyler Hansbrough, who suffered an AC sprain to his left shoulder 2:34 into the first quarter.

Raptors forward Rudy Gay had 17 points but was limited to 32 minutes because of first-half foul trouble.

Toronto came in as the No. 4 offensive rebounding team in the NBA but was beaten to the glass by Phoenix.

"If you allow any team 18 offensive rebounds ... that's giving them 18 more bullets and you can't win like that in this league," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "That's the area that was a strength of ours, but now it's one of our weaknesses and some way, somehow we've got to get that back."

Hansbrough suffered his injury in a collision with Phoenix forward Channing Frye and headed to the dressing room in obvious pain.

"Tyler may be out -- he is going to get a look at his shoulder once we get to Los Angeles (Saturday) to see where it is," Casey said.

Down by 15 points with less than five minutes left, the Raptors cut Phoenix lead to 97-91 on a Johnson layup with 2:42 left. But Johnson missed a 3-pointer and Tucker kept Phoenix's next possession alive with another offensive rebound -- this time feeding Bledsoe for a 3-pointer to restore the Suns' lead to nine.

"I wanted to get back to the old Tuck, getting in there and getting rebounds and not just shooting 3-pointers. Offensive rebounding is one of the things I do pretty well," Tucker said. "When a team makes a run at you late, those are the kinds of plays that keep you ahead and finish things off. I'm not a stat guy, but having a game like this in a win is great."

Tucker scored seven of Phoenix's first eight points of the third quarter, including two 3-pointers, and the Suns built their lead to a game-high 13 points at 76-63 on a Bledsoe free throw with 1:51 left.

But Lowry had seven points down the stretch in the quarter and fed center Jonas Valanciunas for 4-footer with less than a second left to pull the Raptors to 81-74 after three quarters.

Valanciunas finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto.

"We made a little bit of a comeback in the third. But during the fourth quarter it was just assists and rebounds again," Johnson said. "We just got into desperation mode where we were trying to make the home run play instead of being more effective and swinging the ball. And there's the ballgame."

Morris had 11 points in the first quarter.

Down 10-2 early in the game, Toronto rallied immediately with a 12-4 run to tie the score and took their first lead at 20-18 on a Johnson 19-foot jumper with 4:33 left. Johnson led the Raptors with seven points in the quarter.

NOTES: The game featured a unique contrast in styles, with the Suns leading the NBA in fast-break points (20.0 per game) and the Raptors leading the league in second-chance points (17.7 points). "It puts you in a quandary when you do crash the boards, which is something we do well," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said before the game. "We don't want to get burned with a 3-pointer by going to the offensive boards and with one of our perimeter guys." The Suns would up with the advantage in both fastbreak points (19-10) and second-chance points (21-16). ... Injuries have forced Suns G Goran Dragic to either miss or leave games early seven times in the first 19 games. In the other 12, Dragic is averaging 20 points and eight assists. He had 14 points and five assists on Friday. ... Toronto had won three straight games against Phoenix coming into Friday, the Raptors' longest winning streak in the 14-year rivalry. Last year, the Raptors swept the Suns for the third time ever. The Suns have swept Toronto 10 times.
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