(Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)

(Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)

As Tom Leander pointed out in the Phoenix Suns’ broadcast against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday morning, it didn’t seem like the Suns were all the way awake when the game started at 10:30 Sunday morning.  But with six minutes left in the first quarter, the team finally woke up and found their rhythm.

You could actually see the intensity of the Suns pick up halfway through the first quarter.  One one specific defensive play, it seemed the whole team finally decided they were tired of giving up the easy baskets the Raptors had had up to that point.  By the end of the first quarter, the Suns not only had erased an 11-point deficit, they had gone up by two points.  By the end of the half, that lead had stretched to eight.

But while the flow of the game seemed to show the Suns in command nearly the entire time, the Raptors continued to hang around.  Phoenix started the quarter shooting two for 10 and let the Raptors tie the game at 102 apiece.  After a Phoenix timeout, the Suns dumped the ball into Shaq to let him give the team a lead, Steve Nash made three straight free throws to extend the lead to five and they were able to get into the bonus so they were shooting free throws after every Toronto foul with more than five minutes to go in the quarter.

Unfortunately for the Suns, the referees decided to call two quick fouls on Shaquille O’Neal to foul him out with just under five minutes in the game, forcing the rest of the Phoenix players to step up without their big man.  Without The Big Cactus, the game got a lot closer and the Suns lost a little bit of their composure while not getting the close calls that usually happen at the end of a close game.  Up by one, the guys in purple had a great defensive stand and sent Steve Nash down to make a layup with just under 13 seconds to go in the game.  

Whether it was lockdown defense by the Suns or poor shooting by the Raptors, Toronto missed three shots with STAT finally getting the rebound and a foul with .5 seconds on the clock.  The Suns pulled out a win in Toronto in their first game on their longest road trip of the year.  Steve Nash led the team with 18 assists and Amar’e Stoudemire had 31 points.

Your thoughts on the game?  Do you think the early start affected the Suns?  What are your predictions for the rest of this road trip?  Leave your comments below.

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