Trent Jr. leads Raptors to 113-104 win over Suns

TORONTO — Nick Nurse took a flyer with a 20-minute finger rap speech before his Toronto Raptors face the Phoenix Suns on Friday.

His bet paid off. Led by Gary Trent Jr., who tied his season high with 35 points, the Raptors responded with a 113-104 win to snap a two-game losing streak.

The Raptors have lost eight of their last 10 contestants and after their last loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, Nurse felt his team needed to improve in many areas leading up to pre-game conferences.

“It’s not the easiest decision in the world when you’re going to do one of these sessions,” admitted Nurse. « I think you’re rolling the dice a bit, and it’s a dice roll that turned out. »

Nurse, among others, told his team he wanted more pace, better execution and increased effort.

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“Part of it today was technical stuff, whatever,” added Nurse. « It’s like 0.05% if the effort isn’t there. »

The win in their final game of 2022 ended a dismal month in which the Raptors went 5-10 in December.

« The message was that we just have to play harder, » Raptors rookie center Christian Koloko said. “We have to play harder. We watched a lot of clips from the last game. We didn’t play any effort.

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« Today we started the game and we were playing really good defence. We were really aggressive. Everyone was doing a good job. Every time we play like that we have a good chance of winning games.

But the result was still uncertain at the end of the fourth quarter. With the game tied at 101, Scottie Barnes drilled a three-pointer with 3:16 remaining, followed by a three from Koloko 1:27 later to give Toronto a six-point advantage.

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Koloko was an unlikely guy on the game, but the Suns heavily guarded Trent and Pascal Siakam. Siakam found Koloko in the corner for his first three-pointer in eight attempts this season.

« He saw me, » Koloko said. “He has no choice, to be honest, because I think he had two men in front of him.

“I knew he was going to pass it to me as soon as I saw my man standing (away) from the corner. I said to him after the timeout, ‘I appreciate you believing in me for trusting me on that last pass.’ It’s game over, and I’m not put in this position every day.

The victory, in front of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena, also ended a five-game home skid.

Siakam had 26 points, OG Anunoby scored 16 and Barnes scored 11 for Toronto.

The Suns lost their second straight and were led by Chris Paul’s 20 points and 12 assists. Mikal Bridges scored 21 points and Torrey Craig added 13 points.

The Raptors held an 86-79 advantage after three quarters. But Bridges followed a three-pointer with a layup to give the Suns a 99-97 lead with 4:41 remaining.

Toronto enjoyed a 33-24 lead after the first quarter, only to see the visitors go 12-0 to start the second and take a 34-33 lead.

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But Siakam, Anunoby and Trent put together a 16-5 run for the Raptors to give them the lead with less than four minutes left in the first half.

The Suns, however, finished strong to ensure Toronto only held a 53-51 advantage heading into the locker room.

The Raptors were without star goaltender Fred VanVleet (back spasms) and Precious Achiuwa (ankle). The Suns were missing star Devin Booker (groin strain), Cameron Johnson (ankle), Cameron Payne (foot) and Landry Shamet (Achilles).


Analyst Jack Armstrong was recognized during a timeout in the second quarter for his 25th year with the Raptors. The 59-year-old Brooklyn, NY native has been on the team’s shows since the 1998-99 season.


The Raptors start the new year on the road against the Indiana Pacers on Monday and head home for a season-high six-game homestand, starting with the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 30, 2022.

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