Tired Suns go down against Raptors

Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash greets Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano prior to the start of their...

Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash greets Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano prior to the start of their NBA pre-season game in Vancouver October 6, 2010. (Reuters)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:59 AM ET

VANCOUVER - Nothing can be gleaned from a night that was all about nothing, but the Raptors had to feel good about themselves.

Unless anyone gets carried away in the wake of a beatdown against a tired Suns team, there is so much work that awaits these new-look and star-less Raptors that very little significance should be attached to Wednesday night's 129-78 win over Phoenix.

As if anyone needed a further reminder on Steve Nash's appeal, it was again reinforced.

Had Nash been on the floor for longer stretches, the night would have been more competitive and compelling from a competition perspective.

For the Raptors, the team was looking to see in a game situation just how well pieces would mesh, how intense those pieces would compete and how balanced the scoring would prove.

Two weeks into camp, Linas Kleiza has shown himself to be the Raptors' best scorer, showcasing a well-balanced game that saw him score on reverse layups, operating in the mid-post and stepping out to make three-pointers.

All 15 Raptors who dressed for the team's pre-season opener saw the floor, the last being rookie Solomon Alabi, who entered the game four minutes into the final quarter with Toronto leading by 40 points.

It was that kind of night, an evening of little flow and far too many fouls called.

Grant Hill, the poster child for good behaviour, got ejected after picking up his second technical in the third quarter, a questionable ousted when he and Reggie Evans exchanged playful slaps.

The NBA has instituted a no-tolerance policy for this season when it comes to such antics and Evans was shown the door as well.

Robin Lopez was first ejected in the second quarter.

As expected, the sell out crowd at Rogers Arena saved its loudest ovation for Nash, the face of basketball in Canada who is facing one of his biggest professional challenges in trying to keep the Suns competitive minus Amare Stoudemire, New York's newest Knick.

Almost as loud as the cheers accorded for Nash were the boos that rained on Hedo Turkoglu among those rooting for Toronto, whether it was during the pre-game introduction or whenever the ex-Raptors forward had the ball in his hands.

The Suns were the designated home team and when Turkoglu buried his look from beyond the three-point arc, fans cheered the basket.

It's rare to have a hero and an anti-hero on the same team, but it provided an interesting layer to what amounted as a meaningless pre-season game.

The Suns have ventured to Vancouver for exhibition games in the past few years to promote the game and to capitalize on Nash's popularity and appeal, each visit drawing sell outs or near capacity sell outs.

The Grizzlies have long been gone from Vancouver, but the remnants of the team could be found on the floor, the same hardwood the team used when it was part of the NBA family.

Whether Vancouver is an NBA market can be argued, but it's certainly a town that throws its undying support for Nash.

"I know there are basketball fans,'' Raptors head coach Jay Triano, who played his college ball at SFU and who once worked for the Grizzlies, said of the local following in Vancouver. "You look at the history of the university programs here and the B.C. high school boys basketball tournament, there are a lot of people who enjoy the sport of basketball.

"There's an appetite for a game here and I think people will respect the fact that we came here to play this game and we did it because we knew there was going to be a good crowd."

There was and fans seemed to enjoy watching players they'd never heard of run up and down the floor and cheering for both teams when applause was warranted.

Nash's Suns began with the Victoria native playing the familiar point position, Jason Richardson at shooting guard, Grant Hill at small forward, Turkoglu at power forward and Robin Lopez at the centre spot.

The Raptors countered with a starting five of Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Kleiza, Reggie Evans and Andrea Bargnani.

Toronto went with its starters a little longer than Phoenix and the same unit was on the floor when the second quarter began.

With so many positions unsettled, the Raptors seemed to play with more urgency, even it was a pre-season game.

Save for Bargnani's spot in the rotation, no player is assured of anything, which has created a very intense and competitive atmosphere at camp.

The Raptors played with a lot more jump in their step as opposed to the Suns, who played a night earlier in Sacramento.


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