Suns vs. Raptors Free NBA Picks for January 11

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Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors. Abbie Parr/Getty Images/AFP

Phoenix and Toronto play in a high-profile matchup. Here’s betting advice for the game. Top sportsbooks have released their NBA odds for tonight’s contest between the Suns and Raptors. Last year’s runner-up is undeniably having a great season. But the season is very long and, for purposes of betting on this particular game, we are interested in the here and now.

Right now, Toronto is sizzling. The Raptors place their six-game win streak on the line tonight as they try to keep skyrocketing above .500. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.

Phoenix Suns vs. Toronto Raptors

Tuesday, January 11, 2022- 7:30 PM EST at Scotiabank Arena

Inside Toronto's Win Streak 

Currently, Toronto is enjoying a six-game winning streak. As part of this streak, the Raptors have covered the spread five or six times. Their non-cover came in their last game, a four-point win over the Pelicans.

In some respects, this game was their most impressive one because Scottie Barnes tried to play through an injury but was a liability to his team as he was clearly limited. Otherwise, Toronto won its other five games by six points or more. 

The smallest margin of victory came in its triumph in Milwaukee. The Raptors were favored in every other game.

Missing Barnes and Trent 

Will it matter that the Raptors may be relatively shorthanded tonight? Toronto may miss two players for tonight's game: Barnes and Gary Trent. Barnes is listed as 'questionable' with a knee injury as is Trent with an ankle injury.

I don't think either player's injury is decisive because Toronto has already shown what it can achieve without either one's help. For example, Barnes was inefficient and even a liability during his six-point, a four-turnover outing in Milwaukee.

Trent, meanwhile, did not play in the team's victory over New Orleans and scored five points in the Raptors' 15-point demolition of the Knicks.

Improved Depth 

One reason why both players are not missed is the sufficiency of Toronto's depth. Chris Boucher is listed behind Barnes on the depth chart. Boucher has taken major strides since his first couple of years. He is now somebody who can be an effective starter.

Despite his skinniness, he is a strong rebounder. Since his college days at Oregon, he has always been well-known as a shot-blocker, His productivity has also increased on the offensive end. The Raptors do not need to make much use of their bench.

So, it is significant that they have an extra guy in Boucher who can occupy a starting role to make a positive impact on both ends of the court.

No Cam Johnson

Besides, Phoenix has health problems of its own. Shooting guard Cam Johnson has been ruled out for tonight's game with a left ankle sprain. The Suns' fifth-leading scorer, Johnson excels beyond the arc where he's both a high-volume shooter and a very efficient one.

Three-point shooting is not something that Phoenix does much of -- the Suns rank 25th in three-pointers attempted. So they will really miss Johnson tonight, especially considering that defending the perimeter has been a weak spot for the Raptor defense. In not having Johnson, they miss a big chance to take advantage of Toronto's defensive weakness.

Mid-Range 

Instead of, for example, shooting threes, the Suns love to attack the mid-range. This is an odd tendency in today's world of analytics, which favors shot attempts behind the arc or closest to the basket.

But seminal Sun scorers like Chris Paul are known for favoring the mid-range. Thanks to guys like Paul, the Suns attempt the second-most shots from 5-9 feet from the basket, the second-most from 10-14 feet, and the third-most from 15-19 feet.

Defensively, however, the Raptors excel at limiting opposing efficiency and attempts from this broad space between the basket and the three-point line.

Ayton vs. Siakam

The Suns will still want to score inside with center Deandre Ayton. One may think that he has an edge over Toronto rim-protector Pascal Siakam given the latter's lack of size in the Raptors' characteristically smaller lineup.

But since the 2019-2020 season, statistics like points per game show that it is not Siakam who has had trouble guarding Ayton. Instead, it is Ayton who has had difficulty defending Siakam.
Since 2019-2020, Siakam is scoring 17 more points per game against Ayton than Ayton is against Siakam.

In addition to being an able rim protector, Siakam is a versatile scorer, as video footage shows.
Siakam is a steady slasher with his combination of good handle and quickness. He'll also comfortably pull up or perform other actions in isolation. 

He can exploit matchups against smaller players with his body control and touch around the basket.
Plus, as his 4.5 assists per game show, Siakam shows great awareness when trying to score inside. 
When defenses send help to contain him in the post, he makes excellent passes to place teammates in favorable scoring positions.

While he, along with Toronto, is relatively weak at rebounding, the Suns are not the squad to exploit this weakness as they are statistically a bottom-half team in rebounding.

Fred VanVleet 

While Siakam is the Raptors' second-leading scorer, Fred VanVleet leads them with 22 points per game. VanVleet is known for being a high-volume and efficient shooter. He's converting 40.9 percent of his three-point opportunities this season.

As Miami's Duncan Robinson showed in Phoenix's last game, as the Clippers' Marcus Morris also showed in the game before, as other players have done, established shooting threats can do what they want against the Suns' perimeter defense. Expect, therefore, VanVleet to flourish from deep tonight.

The Verdict 

Toronto will continue sizzling against the Suns because its leading scorers, supported by sufficient depth, will have stronger performances than the Suns'. I get why Phoenix is favored, given its overall record.

But with their strong form and matchup advantages, the Raptors will continue winning tonight. For the above reasons, invest in Toronto for your NBA picks.

NBA Pick: Raptors +4.5 (-110) with Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Raptors +4.5 (-110)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.