Raptors-Suns Preview

The Associated Press

Unable to get things going in the first quarter, the reeling Toronto Raptors continue to falter.

If recent history versus the Phoenix Suns is any indication, Toronto could have a hard time putting an end to its woes.

Hoping to avoid a ninth consecutive defeat, the Raptors visit a Suns team looking to extend its winning streak in this series to 15 games Tuesday night.

Averaging a league-worst 19.3 points over the first 12 minutes, Toronto's first-quarter struggles continued during Sunday's 103-91 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers. The Raptors (4-13) opened their five-game trip with another sluggish effort, getting outscored 27-11 in the opening quarter before ultimately suffering their eighth straight defeat.

"Another loss - and the way we lost is definitely frustrating," said swingman DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 15 points on 4-of-19 shooting. "We dug ourselves our own hole. We tried to fight back, but teams are too good in this league to allow that. Teams are going out there and jumping on our team. No one likes to take a loss, so we need to act like it from the start."

While playing without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf) for the last six games certainly hasn't helped, Toronto has shot just 39.1 percent from the floor and been outscored by an average of 11.7 points during its skid.

"Our starts have been horrendous. We compete harder in practice than we do to start the games," coach Dwane Casey said.

"Like I told the team, we're gonna continue to work, we're gonna continue to get better - that's where we are and that's the only thing we can do."

Bargnani, averaging 22.3 points and a career-best 6.5 rebounds, is listed as day-to-day but could return Tuesday. The Raptors would surely love to see their most dangerous offensive threat back on the court as they try to knock off Phoenix (6-10) for the first time in almost eight years.

Since prevailing 101-94 on the road Feb. 10, 2004, the Raptors have been outscored by 12.3 points per game in losing 14 in a row to the Suns.

After posting back-to-back victories, Phoenix closed out a five-game trek with Monday's 93-87 loss at Dallas. The Suns outrebounded the Mavericks 52-42, but they shot a season-worst 37.3 percent from the floor and committed 19 turnovers - eight by Grant Hill.

Marcin Gortat continued his impressive play with 19 points and a season-best 17 boards for his eighth double-double in as many games. Gortat's impressive numbers, however, haven't translated into many wins for the Suns, who have gone 2-6 over that stretch.

The Suns, who scored 105.5 points per game at home last season, have been held to 96.1 per game in going 3-4 at US Airways Center.

Toronto's Leandro Barbosa, who spent the first seven years of his career with Phoenix, is averaging 17.6 points off the bench over his last seven contests.

Bargnani has posted 25.7 points per game on 53.6 percent shooting in his last three meetings with the Suns.

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