For the 14th time in a row, the Raptors succumbed to the Suns, who have yet to lose at home since Nash’s arrival in the desert seven years ago.
The latest setback was a 114-106 defeat in a game the Raptors should have won had they defended the three-point line.
No matter what kind of shooting funk he’s in, no matter how poorly he’s been playing, no matter the game’s significance, when Vince Carter plays his former team, explosives aren’t far behind.
Had Carter made any shot of any significance a night earlier, the Suns’ chase for the eighth and final playoff seed in the West would have more impetus.
One night a bust and all but pulling a disappearing act in Hollywood, the next Carter was shooting out the lights.
Four good looks led to four straight buckets for Carter, who made three straight threes.
It’s not like the Raptors did anything, in fact for most of the opening half the Raptors didn’t do much of anything on defence, but Carter would miss his next four shots, all off decent to good looks.
His next three misses were forced shots.
There wasn’t anything forced about his rebounding presence because there was none.
Carter’s early-game shooting set the tone for the Suns, at least offensively because Phoenix defended even poorly than its visitors.
Had the Raptors defended the three-point line with any sense of purpose by closing out on shooters or going over screens, their six-point lead at the break could have easily reached double digits.
At no point did Phoenix show any willingness to take control, a sure sign of the fatigue in the wake of its triple overtime loss to the Lakers on Tuesday.
Not only were Phoenix’s shots, especially from beyond the three-point arc, dropping, but also its players.
First it was Grant Hill, who was a demon in L.A. defending Kobe Bryant until fouling out in dubious fashion, heading to the locker room with flu-like symptoms with 5:43 remaining in the first quarter.
And then came the sight of Michael Pietrus grabbing his right knee and barely able to walk off the court.
It was later announced that Pietrus had sprained his knee.
Nash played a little more than six minutes in the first half.
He would start the second half, but during Nash’s extended break Aaron Brooks was able to get off any shot he wanted and could not be stopped when attacking the rim.
As vulnerable as they looked on defence, the Raptors were very dominant on offence, getting the ball into the hands of Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan early and often.
The first quarter would end with Leandro Barbosa beating the buzzer from the right pocket, a shot he made often during his seven-year run in Phoenix.
For Barbosa, it was his first game back to the desert following last summer’s trade.
As befitting the occasion, the crowd warmly welcomed back the Brazilian Blur, who had that look in his eye that no one on this night would stop him and that every heave would find net.
When he wasn’t spotting up, Barbosa was taking his man off the dribble.
With both teams settling for jumpers, not surprising given how little defence was being played, trips to the line were as frequent as defensive stops.
And when free throws were attempted, many came off some questionable fouls.
There was no question why the Raptors allowed a 13-point lead to disappear in the third quarter quicker than Brooks dribbles the ball in the open floor.
A two-three zone and sloppy ball handling would fuel a Suns run that made it an 86-86 game after three quarters.