Best Bosh not enough

STEVE BUFFERY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

PHOENIX -- The Raptors gave it the old college try against the Suns last night. Unfortunately, they play in the NBA.

Playing their fourth game in five nights on a Western Conference road swing, the Raptors hung tough for just over two quarters against the Suns, the most explosive club in the NBA, but, in the end, ran out of gas and were blown out of the US Airways Center, 122-103, for their third loss in a row.

Chris Bosh, who had 26 in a losing cause against Seattle on Friday night, stood tall again for the road-weary Raptors, picking up a career-high 42 points, 22 from the free-throw line, also a career high, in 24 attempts. The rest of the team went to the line a total of six times. Bosh also had 13 boards.

"The free-throw line is my friend, I just always try to be aggressive. I always try to attack the basket and get those easy points," said Bosh, who believes the struggling Raptors really need a break.

"It's pretty tough for us," he said.

"Sometimes it's good to have a break and regroup and come back fresh. It's a long season, teams have slumps. We're just in a little funk right now, but we just have to work hard to get out of it."

The Raptors do get a break, with their next game on Friday in San Antonio against the NBA champion Spurs.

Though Bosh clearly was winded at times last night, he was spectacular, prompting the Suns faithful to continually scream at the Phoenix players to double-team him.

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni ignored the fans' pleas.

"We wanted just to let him go one-on one," D'Antoni told the Associated Press after the game. "It's when you let the other guys go crazy from the '3' that they're really dangerous."

In a one-minute period in the third quarter, Bosh scored on a reverse dunk, after a perfect alley-oop pass from Jose Calderon, and then pulled in a offensive rebound and scored on a layup to bring Toronto to within five.

But there wasn't enough of a balanced attack from the rest of the team and, for the third straight game, there wasn't much of an effort on defence.

Canadian icon Steve Nash handled the Suns offence with his usual brilliant touch, picking up six rebounds, seven points and 16 assists, none bigger than his pass to Leandro Barbosa late in the third quarter. The Victoria native pulled in an offensive rebound, with three bigger Raptors players standing along side, kicked it out to Barbosa, who then nailed a three for a 98-79 Suns lead.

Toronto head coach Sam Mitchell shook up the lineup, inserting the struggling Andrea Bargnani in as a starter, and leaving Rasho Nesterovic on the bench for the entire game.

Bargnani, the 2006 NBA first overall draft pick, still looked uncomfortable, picking up 13 points and three rebounds in 30 minutes.

The loss dropped the Raptors to 15-14 while Phoenix, which has four straight series sweeps against Toronto, improved to 19-8. The Suns shot 52% from the floor.

Three Suns scored better than 20 points, Barbosa (31), Amare Stoudemire (28) and Grant Hill (25). Stoudemire also had 11 rebounds.

Calderon had 15 points and four assists for the Raptors, while Carlos Delfino picked up a double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds, coming off the bench.

The Raptors, despite getting into their hotel rooms at about 3:30 a.m. yesterday morning after flying in from Seattle, started well, charging to an 11-4 lead, before running into foul trouble. The Suns then capitalized by taking a 35-30 lead heading into the second quarter. A pair of Toronto starters, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon, both picked up three fouls in the first quarter and were brought back to the bench. Bosh picked up his second foul with 4:31 left in the first quarter.

The Suns, meanwhile, last played on Wednesday and have been at home preparing for the Raptors. Bosh had 23 points in the half, 11 from the free throw line, as the Raps trailed 66-61 at the half.

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REPLAY

TURNING POINT

Suns forward Shawn Marion grabbed an offensive rebound midway through the third quarter and then fed a nice pass to Grant Hill under the basket, who then scored a layup, to put Phoenix up by 10.

FUNNY STUFF

The Suns presented arguably one of the funniest scoreboard skits in the NBA. The organization put together a phony Christmas CD featuring a group of Suns players singing Christmas carols. The gag was, the players were very sincere in their efforts, but they couldn't sing a lick. And the CD was being sold for "Not $29.99! Not $19.99! But $2.99!"


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