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Surging Suns roll over tired Raptors

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PHOENIX — The Toronto Raptors still have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. But the Phoenix Suns are playing their best basketball of the season, and it was too much for a tired Toronto squad to deal with.

Guards Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas combined for 56 points and 14 assists, and the Suns scored a season-high 43 points in the second quarter in a 125-109 rout of the Raptors on Sunday night.

The Suns shot 62 percent from the floor over the first three quarters — and a blistering 78 percent in the second quarter — to win for the eighth time in 10 games. For the game, Phoenix hit 53.9 percent of its field-goal attempts and emphatically avenged a 104-100 loss in Toronto on Nov. 24 with a statement win.

Like Toronto on Sunday, that was the last stop on a five-game road trip.

“We had a meeting before the game and we knew it was their last game of the trip and we needed to play strong through the whole game,” Dragic said. “We jumped on them early, played good defense, we went inside the paint (64 points) and when you do that you have a lot of options.

“That was the most complete game we had this season. We were focused from beginning to end on offense and defense and we did our thing. We have been on the road a lot this season and we know that last game is the toughest. Maybe you aren’t as focused and you want to get home quick.”

Phoenix (20-16) holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference at present, but their record would have them a lot higher in the East. They are now 11-6 with five straight wins against the other conference. Sunday, the starting five hit 27 of 45 shots against Toronto before building a 28-point lead and watching the rest of the night.

The Suns are averaging 117 points over the last eight games and 125 is a season high for a game in regulation.

“We’ve played great for the last (10) games now,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We want to prove we’re one of the good teams. Unfortunately we’re in the West. What are (the Raptors), first or second in the East? We could have won that game by 40 if we left our starters in. They played great.”

Phoenix (20-16) matched its season high at four games over .500. The Suns start a four-game road trip in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Center Jonas Valanciunas scored 21 points and guard Kyle Lowry added 19 points and seven assists for the Raptors, who lost three straight games for the first time this season and finished 2-3 on their Western road trip. Guard Lou Williams and forward James Johnson had 17 each off the bench.

“We just got beat, we got beat bad,” Lowry said. “I think that’s all I need to sum it up. Everybody loses games. We weren’t going to go 82-0 and we weren’t going to break the Chicago Bulls (NBA) record at 72-10.”

Toronto (24-10) trailed by 28 points two nights after falling behind by 23 in a 126-105 loss at Golden State — the Raptors’ two largest deficits of the season. A team that averages 11 turnovers a game had 21 Sunday — 15 of them off Phoenix steals — and the Suns turned them into 30 points.

“We were flat as a pancake. No zip,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “It seemed like that Portland game (a 102-97 loss on Tuesday) took so much out of us. We played a tough team in Golden State and then and then a good team today. We just had no resiliency whatsoever on the defensive end.

“Some of the mistakes we were making were just mental, flat mistakes. All the yelling in the world isn’t going to change that.”

Bledsoe had 20 points and Dragic and Thomas had 18 each. Phoenix guard Gerald Green added 11 points. The Suns had seven players in double figures, with guard Archie Goodwin scoring 12 in the final nine minutes. Two other players finished with nine points.

In a matchup of two of the NBA’s four-best offenses, the Suns had it going their way all night.

The Suns shot 67 percent from the field in scoring a season-high 70 points in the first half and taking a 17-point lead to the break. The starting five hit a combined 20 of 29 attempts from the field (69 percent), and the team turned 13 Toronto turnovers into 25 points on the other end.

The Raptors never got closer than 16 points in the second half. The highlight was Goodwin, who punctuated his season high in points with a flying, one-handed dunk over Valanciunas with 3:24 left.

“It was pretty good,” Hornacek said. “Archie’s long, he can jump and when he gets space to move and fly like that … we see him do stuff like that in practice all the time.”

NOTES: The Raptors came in ranked third in the NBA at 108.0 points per game, and the Suns were ranked fourth at 106.7 points per game. The Suns averaged 115.9 points per game over the previous seven games. … Suns G Eric Bledsoe began the night averaging 16.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.5 steals. He and Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are the only players averaging at least 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals a game. … Raptors G Kyle Lowry scored 19 points, ending his string of six games with 20 or more. … Toronto fell to 9-5 against the Western Conference this season.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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