Raps caught off-guard

Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns drives between Raptors Milt Palacio (left) and Matt Bonner yesterday...

Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns drives between Raptors Milt Palacio (left) and Matt Bonner yesterday at the ACC. Nash had 19 points and 12 assists in the Suns 123-105 win. (Toronto Sun/Fred Thornhill)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:33 PM ET

With the best point guard in the NBA in town, it was not exactly an ideal time for more Rafer Madness.

On a day when the Raptors suspended volatile starting point guard Rafer Alston for "conduct detrimental to the team," red-hot Canadian Steve Nash and his Phoenix Suns came to town and whipped the reeling home side.

With Alston serving the first game of a two-game suspension, following a blowup with coach Sam Mitchell on Saturday, the Suns extended the Raptors' losing streak to three games with an easy 123-105 victory before a sellout crowd of 19,800 yesterday at the Air Canada Centre.

Alston, reportedly, bolted out of the gym during an argument with Mitchell on Saturday. That apparently was the final straw for the first-year head coach, who was growing frustrated with Alston's on-court and off-court attitude.

"There are rules and certain things we have to follow," Mitchell said. "There is a certain code of conduct and a certain amount of professionalism we're not going to expect, but demand ... We don't suspend anybody. You kind of suspend yourself."

With Alston making $3.5 million US this season, the two-game suspension will cost him more than $85,000.

It wasn't the first confrontation between Alston and Mitchell. Alston voiced his displeasure after being benched Nov. 27 in New York and then threatened to retire after a dispute with Mitchell Dec. 3 in Boston.

"It would be helpful for him (to become less volatile) for his career and (to become) the player he has the talent to be," Mitchell said. "(Minnesota Timberwolves coach) Flip Saunders used to tell me all the time that sometimes your biggest strengths are your biggest weaknesses. His passion is a strength, but sometimes it can be a weakness."

The Raptors need to learn how to control a good team. The Suns led by as many as 34 points in the third quarter, prompting coach Mike D'Antoni to rest Nash for the entire fourth. Nash, 7-for-12 from the field, finished with 19 points and 12 assists for his 25th double-double of the season. The Suns (36-10) moved into a tie for first overall in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs.

"(It was) a (butt) whipping, literally," said the Raptors' Jalen Rose, who split point guard duties with starter Milt Palacio. "We got it handed to us ... Obviously, they are a great team. They are a running team and they have the potential to score a lot of points, but it was just embarrassing the way we allowed them to get what they wanted on the floor."

The Suns set a Raptors franchise record for most points in a quarter by an opponent with 46 in the third and tied a record for rebounds in quarter with 22 in the first.

The Raptors, by the way, weren't using the Alston controversy as an excuse.

"We're only as strong as our weakest link and we definitely missed him out there, but that doesn't get us off the hook at all," Rose said. "The Rafer situation was not a distraction to our team."


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