TORONTO - Sunday afternoon's track meet with the fleet-footed Suns left the Raptors in a daze, but one player was feeling it more than the others.
With just over 90 seconds remaining, down by nine in a game Toronto would go on to lose 121-113, Kyle Lowry - the Raptors' most irreplaceable player - clutched his head, as he remained sprawled out on the court across from the team's bench.
Scrambling for a loose ball moments earlier, Lowry took two inadvertent knees to the head from Suns' 235-pound forward P.J. Tucker.
Assisted by his teammates and the medical staff, the Raptors' point guard walked gingerly to the bench where he was examined briefly during the timeout but would ultimately stay in the game.
"He's fine," Dwane Casey said after the game, but Lowry's assessment was a little less comforting.
"I got kneed in the head, bad," he told reporters. "I've got a headache right now. These (television) lights are killing me right now. But I'm alright, though."
Has he suffered a concussion before? Was he concerned that he may have suffered one that afternoon? Lowry balked at those questions. "No, I'm tough," he said with a laugh, as if that could shield him from possible head injury.
For those familiar with Lowry, one thing was for certain. He was not coming out of that game voluntarily. Sure enough, he shook it off and played the final 1:36, badly missing his next shot, a three coming out of the timeout.
After a slow start, Lowry scored all but two of his team-high 28 points during the Raptors' second half push. Ultimately he and his club could not overcome Phoenix's dynamic backcourt and devastating team speed.
"Their speed and quickness was the biggest factor," Casey said after his team surrendered 121 points, most since they lost a Jan. 25 shootout to the Clippers.
"Speed does that," he continued. "Speed kills. That's the whole bottom line. We won't see a faster team than that the rest of the year. It caused a lot of breakdowns."
With the tandem of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe setting the tone for Phoenix, the Raptors were forced out of their comfort zone, playing at a tempo that suited the Suns' high-octane attack.
"That's their type of game," Lowry admitted. "We don't want to have no type of game like that. We want to hold teams under 100, under 90, preferably."
The Raptors, who had not lost a game by more than five points in over a month, were holding their previous nine opponents at home to 91.3 in regulation. For the first time over that stretch, they seemed to let their own frustration get the better of them.
Usually a calm, cool and collected bunch, the Raptors got caught up arguing with the officials during a third quarter in which the Suns shot 23 free throws, including 10 from Bledsoe alone.
The afternoon mercifully came to an end with reserve forward Steve Novak confronting a teammate on Toronto's bench as Jonas Valanciunas played peacemaker and held him back. Novak would not say he was shouting at, or why and insisted, it's a non-issue.
Despite a bit of understandable post-game tension in the team's locker room, there was an underlying feeling of calmness, stemming from their unflappable head coach.
"It's not a systemic problem," Casey insisted. "It's not a situation where (we should) panic. It's one game. We knew we weren't going to go undefeated the rest of the way. That team right there, they're fighting for their playoff lives like we are."
Of course, that wasn't the case back in December when Toronto last visited the Suns. In the midst of a Western road trip, the Raptors dropped their fifth straight and fell six games below the .500 mark for the only time this season. It was an undeniable low point for the squad before their fortunes turned two days later, as Rudy Gay was traded. Even after Sunday's loss, they are 31-16 since that game in Phoenix.
In a couple losses to the Suns - the Western Conference's feel-good story - this season, the Raptors have been out-rebounded by 36, grabbing a season-low 26 on Sunday, allowing a total of 227 points.
Without Patrick Patterson, missing his fourth straight game with an elbow ligament sprain, the Raptors' undermanned second unit was thoroughly outplayed Sunday.
The Suns finished with a 59-11 advantage in bench scoring, led by the 28 points of Gerald Green - a starter until Bledsoe returned from injury - and the Morris twins, who Patterson likely would have guarded.
"Once Patrick gets back we have offence coming off the bench, which is huge, everybody kind of gets back in their place," said Casey, who wasn't concerned about long-term ramifications of the bench's underwhelming performance. "Again, no time to panic. We've showed that we've played against quality teams without Pat. We've got to continue to do that."
Patterson will be re-evaluated Monday and the team hopes to have him back in the lineup sometime this coming week.
Johnson climbs franchise block list
With his swat on Tucker midway through the first quarter, Amir Johnson passed Antonio Davis for third on the Raptors' all-time block list.
Johnson, who leads Toronto with 73 blocked shots this season, has recorded 406 since being acquired by the Raptors ahead of the 2009-10 campaign. He is now 9 blocks away from tying Vince Carter for second-most in franchise history. Chris Bosh is the Raptors' all-time leader with 600.
DeMar DeRozan, who scored 17, has been held under 20 points in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 20-23.
The Raptors' all-star guard tallied 16 points on Friday in a challenging matchup against the Grizzlies' Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen before facing Tucker and the Suns Sunday.
"It's just tough when you go out there playing hard and sometimes we don't get a call that we're fighting or dying for, that we may need at a critical time," said DeRozan, who was whistled for a technical, along with Casey, after voicing his disapproval of a no-call on a drive to the basket in the third quarter. "It's definitely tough but it's something we can learn from."