Takeaways: Raptors bounce back with grind-it-out road win

Kyle Lowry scored 26 points and DeMar DeRozan added 22 points and the Toronto Raptors held off Phoenix 104-97.

The Toronto Raptors got back to their winning ways Tuesday night with a 104-97 win over the Phoenix Suns. Here are five takeaways from the game.

DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were already Eastern Conference All-Stars, and on Tuesday they were named co-Eastern Conference players of the month for January.

The pair was back at it again against the Suns, as Lowry scored 26 on 8-of-15 shooting and, after a slow start, DeRozan dropped 22 on 8-of-16 shooting. Remember two years ago when people were debating if John Wall and Bradley Beal or Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters were the best backcourt in the East? Those assertions seem foolish now, as it’s clearly the Raptors duo.

The Splash Brothers in Golden State are obviously the best tandem in the league, but statistically they’re arguably the best duo of all-time. Don’t let the era they happen to be playing in fool you; it’s a treasure to have an elite backcourt in their prime together at the same time. Not many franchises have been able to say that. Enjoy it while it lasts Raptors fans.

DeMar DeRozan was called for two questionable offensive fouls in Phoenix. Those calls were made even more frustrating for the Raptors shooting guard considering he got hit a couple times to no avail on the offensive end. Former Raptor P.J. Tucker in particular was quite physical with DeRozan when guarding the all-star. DeRozan generally gets all-star calls, but not on this night.

In years past, DeRozan would have gone off on the officiating crew and inevitably gotten a technical. Not Tuesday. Despite clearly being agitated and bewildered, the Raptors star continued to play through the contact for all 34 minutes on the floor.

With James Johnson out with an ankle injury, Dwane Casey and company decided to keep as much continuity as possible on his second unit. Terrence Ross was kept in his role as first wing off the bench. Rookie Norman Powell was inserted into the starting lineup, which moved DeRozan to small forward to start the game.

Ross is playing confidently and decisively so it was wise not to uproot his routine or the overall rotation as a whole. Powell got the opportunity to play with the starters and just concentrate on defending and facilitating. While sharing the backcourt with Lowry and DeRozan, Powell doesn’t have to worry about getting his own shot.

Ross led the bench with 16 points, while Powell tied for the team lead with two steals in just 15 minutes of play.

This was a tough road win. The second night of a back-to-back on the West coast after getting in late due to a snow storm. Plus, the team was down a member of the rotation because of Johnson’s injury. Lowry once again was forced to play big minutes, being out on the court for 41.

Still, Toronto persevered to get their 15th win on the road, second to just the Cavaliers in the East.

Markieff Morris played like a man possessed. Morris had three massive dunks, a couple of which Jonas Valanciunas was on the wrong end of. Morris scored 30 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out six assists, adding two blocks. He finished the game plus-9 in a seven-point loss for the Suns.

Morris was either relieved he was now playing for Earl Watson — who he has a good relationship with, rather than task master Jeff Jeff Hornacek — or he was playing inspired basketball as an audition for the Raptors, who he was rumoured to be interested in joining in the off-season.

Ahead of the Feb. 18 trade deadline, the Raptors will continue to be rumoured with power forwards, and Morris will continue to be rumoured to move. The next 16 days should be interesting.

As they try and start a new winning streak, Toronto moves to 13-3 over their last 16 and have 22 victories when holding their opponent under 100.

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