Eric Bledsoe with 40 points, Suns hand Raptors third straight loss

Bledsoe scores 40 to lead Suns over Raptors 115-103

TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan had become accustomed to leaving the arena in a good mood. He hasn’t been doing much of that lately, though. 

Eric Bledsoe poured in 40 points and Devin Booker added 20 more as the Phoenix Suns beat Toronto 115-103 on Sunday to hand the Raptors their first three-game losing skid in over a year.

“If you’re a true competitor you hate this feeling, you hate leaving the arena like this,” DeRozan said. “It sucks at night, having that on your mind, having consecutive losses, especially three that you’re not used to having.

“You just have to come out with that feeling and that hunger, that aggressiveness the next game.”

Toronto seemed poised to break its two-game slide, leading by eight points in the fourth quarter. But the Suns (15-29) used a 20-7 run to take control of the game.

The Raptors hadn’t lost three straight since November 2015.

“When you lose three in a row you should be frustrated, you should be upset,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “I don’t want anyone in the locker-room not to be upset and frustrated because we’ve set a standard for ourselves to be better than that.”

DeRozan led the Raptors (28-16) with 22 points before leaving the game with just over a minute to go. He had rolled his right ankle earlier in the quarter when he stepped on teammate Jonas Valanciunas’s foot while making a shot.

The all-star guard was limping after the game but is hopeful the injury will heal quickly.

“I was trying to play through it but it just got a little bit more uncomfortable,” DeRozan said. “With just a minute left I didn’t want to go out there and something else happen.”

Kyle Lowry, who finished with 15 points, had a rough night from the three-point line, hitting just 1 of 9. He was also ejected with 1:30 to play after taking a flagrant-two foul following contact with the head of Brandon Knight.

Lowry said he meant no ill-will toward Knight and had texted him after the game to apologize.

“It was not a dirty play at all. Honestly, I thought he was going to go for a floater, I swiped across and hit his head, he took another dribble,” Lowry said. “I’m not a dirty player. … It wasn’t out of frustration.

“Nothing dirty, nothing intentional, not my type of style. It’s not who I am.”

Tyson Chandler had 16 points and PJ Tucker chipped in with 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns.

Valanciunas recorded his team-leading 17th double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds for Toronto, while DeMarre Carroll had 14 points.

Lucas Nogueira, back in the starting lineup after missing two games as part of the NBA’s concussion protocol, scored 13 points, 11 in the first quarter.

Phoenix, which swept the season series against Toronto for first time since the 2013-14 campaign, improved to 7-17 on the road while the Raptors fell to 15-7 at home.

“It’s a little bit of adversity but we’re professionals, no one’s feeling sorry for us,” Lowry said. “We’ll be fine. … Just have to get back to work, back to basics. We’re not panicking. I think we understand what the situation is, we just have to figure it out.”

Nogueira came out hot with a running dunk just one minute into the game, then added an alley-oop dunk moments later to put Toronto up 10-3.

Phoenix tied the game 23-23 late in the first on a 7-0 run but Toronto re-took the lead at 28-26 with a Nogueira three-pointer and closed out the first with a 31-28 edge.

The Suns capped the first half with a dunk from Chandler to head into the locker-room down by three, 60-57. 

The Raptors saw a seven-point lead dwindle back down to three by the end of the third quarter. They went into the final 12 minutes up 85-82.

Toronto opened the final quarter with a pair of Nogueira free throws and a long three from Terrence Ross for an eight-point lead, it’s largest of the game.

A three from Booker cut the Suns’ deficit back to one two minutes in and Chandler tied the game 95-95 two minutes later.

The Suns went on a tear from there, with a Chandler dunk putting Phoenix up by nine with two minutes to go.

“It’s not about offence, I’ve said that the entire year,” Casey said. “It’s about getting stops because there are going to be nights, games, when your shot’s not falling and that’s where we are right now.”

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

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