Nash dominates Raptors

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 4:20 PM ET

Steve Nash might be a Canadian at heart, but beating up on Canada’s only NBA team and Canada’s only head coach is all in a day’s work.

If ever there was a misleading statistic, it was the nine points scored by Nash against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon.

Nash otherwise was dominant in his only appearance of the 2008-09 season at the ACC. The Victoria, B.C., native had a season-high 18 assists, just four short of his career high of 22, leading the Suns to a 117-113 victory.

Nash sealed the Suns victory with 12.9 seconds remaining when he drove to the basket and hit a layup to give Phoenix a 116-113 lead. Toronto’s Anthony Parker missed a layup and Chris Bosh then missed the tip-in in the dying seconds.

The Raptors, who play Monday afternoon in Atlanta against the Hawks to kick off a three-game trip that has stops in Detroit and Chicago, have lost five in a row and fell to 16-26. The Suns won for the first time in three games and improved to 23-15.

Toronto had a scare when Bosh fell to the court in agony with less than five minutes to play after twisting his right ankle. But Bosh stayed in the game.

Parker led the Raptors with 26 points. Joey Graham had a career-high 22 points for Toronto. It was the first time Canada's Jay Triano has coached against Nash.

Amare Stoudemire’s 31 points led the Suns, who began a six-game trip. Shaquille O’Neal had 16 points before fouling out with just under five minutes remaining.

The 71 points poured in by the Suns in the first half — they led 71-63 after 24 minutes — was eight less than the record of 79 that the Raptors have allowed in one half. That happened on March 14, 2008 in Denver against the Nuggets.

Nash had 11 assists in the first half — two short of the most the Raptors have allowed in one quarter, a record of 13 set by Nash on Dec. 12, 2006 at Phoenix. Two of them were vintage Nash.

He found Leandro Barbosa with a 50-foot one-bounce pass, with the ball rising no more than a couple of feet off the floor, for a layup. Later, Nash hit Amare Stoudemire for an alley-oop that had fans gasping.

Nash didn’t get his first basket until late in the third quarter, on his third attempt.

With trade rumours swirling that Jermaine O’Neal could be traded to the Miami Heat for forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks, the centre did not play. But it was because he wanted to give his oft-injured knee a rest, and the plan is for him to play Monday in Atlanta.

Jason Kapono missed the game with flu-like symptoms and Jose Calderon, nursing a strained hamstring, also did not dress.


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