Nash and James a contrast in styles

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

It's a beautiful argument.

Is your point guard a scorer first, a guy who charges to the hoop to destroy defences from the inside out, or a scorer of last resort who spends his night orchestrating?

The high art involved in both approaches was showcased last night at the ACC in a game shaped and decided by the superb play of Phoenix guard Steve Nash and his counterpart, the Raptors' Mike James.

James had 36 points and 10 assists. Nash, the league's reigning MVP, finished with 20 points and 10 assists.

What works best? Well, we can tell you who won, Phoenix, 140-126 in a walk.

For Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo, former longtime GM of the Suns, the distinction on the correct way to play the point is a vital question. His major decision of the off-season will be whether to tender an honest offer to the 30-year-old James.

Of course, Colangelo doesn't have the luxury of signing Nash any time soon, but he does have in Jose Calderon a player at least closer to the blueprint.

So which is best?

Well, the Suns aren't complaining.

"It (having Nash) means everything, you can see it," forward James Jones said. "When he's out there, we're a totally different team. We've won 49 games and no one would expect him to win 30 because Amare (Stoudamire) was out.

"Steve makes the game so much easier because the ball is in his hands 80% of the game. The guy who has the ball 80% of the time, with a winning team, should be the MVP."

James, meanwhile, did what he has been doing all year -- he attacked the basket all night. In the first-half he shot more free throws, eight, than the rest of the team combined.

"If you're a team that wants scoring from the point guard position, Mike James is that," Jones said. "He's a tough match-up one-on-one for anyone who plays. If you want to set everyone else up, that's Steve. I think it really depends on the type of team you want."

Nash, ever the good Canadian, says he's just one of the guys.

"It all starts with Steve," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said.

"We share the ball. We try to draw two players and swing it," Nash said. "We try to move it and share it and be unselfish."

For Colangelo, the James question is a financial matter, of course, but it's a philosophical one as well. After all, only one number matters -- the one under the win column.

Which brings us back to which is best, a feverish hard-driving guard who often thinks shot first, second or third, or the catalyst who is hugely dependent on the abilities of his teammates.

James' ability to penetrate led to a host of lay-ups and offensive rebounds for the Raptors. On a team saddled with sluggish play from any big man not named Chris Bosh, is James' energy doubly vital?

Under Nash's command, the Suns showed themselves to be unstoppable last night.

They shot 58% and ran their offence so smoothly there was little the Raps could do to stop a torrent of easy baskets.

Nash, the league's reigning MVP and a contender for this year's version as well, was hard to notice. He scored a quiet eight points in the first half, although his clutch jumper from the top of the three-point arc with three seconds left in the half restored a 10-point Phoenix lead. Nash was particularly effective from the three-point line where he hit five out of six.

So which is best?

You can argue it all night, but there is one unassailable fact.

The guys with the traditional point guard won and have won 23 more times than the guys without one.


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