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Monday, March 20, 2023

Precious Achiuwa, Raptors continue Western swing vs. Suns

Precious Achiuwa, Raptors continue Western swing vs. Suns


The recently resurgent Phoenix Suns seek their sixth win in the last seven outings on Monday when they host a Toronto Raptors squad aiming for their fourth win in the last five.

Monday’s contest is the fourth in a seven-game Western Conference road swing for Toronto, which improved to 2-1 on this stretch with a 123-105 rout of Portland on Saturday.

Precious Achiuwa continued his recent strong play with 27 points and 13 rebounds against the Trail Blazers, marking seven straight games scoring at least 11 points and his fourth double-double in five contests.

“I’m still getting in a rhythm, the more games I play,” Achiuwa said in Saturday’s postgame press conference. “Getting into better shape, as well.”

Achiuwa missed 24 games from Nov. 11 through Dec. 30 due to an ankle injury. He saw a steady uptick in minutes played since rejoining the lineup on Jan. 2 before entering the starting lineup on Jan. 21.

Achiuwa has started three of the past five games and played more than 28 minutes in each of those five contests.

“Precious had a very good post-All-Star (weekend) run last season,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I’m not sure it’s this good, though. He’s much more just under control, more powerful. It’s like it’s finally slowing down for him a little bit, where he’s getting to spot at his pace and tempo and being able to make good reads.”

Toronto looks to continue its recent improved play against a Phoenix side that has done an about-face in recent contests.

The Suns endured a stretch of 12 losses in 14 games from Dec. 20 through Jan. 16. The team’s leading scorer — Devin Booker at 27.1 points per game — missed each of those games, save a Christmas Day loss to Denver in which he played fewer than five minutes.

Booker remains sidelined with a groin injury that the 2021-22 All-NBA honoree told reporters last week would be re-evaluated in the coming week. However, Phoenix has effectively adjusted and battled its way back to above .500 with its recent run of performances.

Saturday’s 128-118 overtime win in San Antonio saw Chris Paul lead the way with 31 points and 10 assists, while Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton added 25 and 23 points, respectively.

Six different Suns have scored at least 20 points over Phoenix’s past five wins. Josh Okogie came off the bench to score 24 points against Indiana, Torrey Craig notched 20 points in a defeat of Memphis and Cameron Johnson had a team-high 24 in a win over Charlotte.

“It’s just the confidence level, us playing that hard,” Ayton said of Phoenix’s resurgence following Saturday’s win in his postgame media availability. “Being with guys out, dudes stepping up. This confidence isn’t coming out of anywhere. It’s been there since the season started.”

Phoenix has had to use patchwork lineups at times. In addition to Booker’s absence, key role players Landry Shamet and Cameron Payne have been sidelined for most of the past month or more.

Ayton missed three games last week due to a non-COVID illness, and Paul returned to the rotation from a seven-game absence on Jan. 22.

–Field Level Media


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