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Suns Scorch Raps
|Chris Bosh Phoenix scores 46 points in the 3rd quarter to rout Toronto|
TORONTO, ONTARIO — The January 30th NBA contest in Toronto was a homecoming for one point guard, while another spent the afternoon at home.
Canada’s native son, Steve Nash, was greeted warmly by the sellout crowd as he led the Phoenix Suns in their only regular season appearance at the Air Canada Centre.
Meanwhile, the Raptors announced before the game that starting point guard Rafer Alston had been suspended for what they called “conduct detrimental to the team”. Even had Rafer been in the lineup the outcome would not have changed, as the Suns controlled the game in every aspect en route to an easy 123-105 victory.
While point guard play was a factor, it was the Suns’ dominance on the boards in the first quarter that set the tone for the match. Phoenix shot just 40.7% from the field but collected 22 rebounds in the opening frame, including 11 on the offensive end. In fact, Shawn Marion out-rebounded the entire Raptor squad all by himself, by a margin of 12-11. Rookie Rafael Araujo once again appeared dazed, confused and one step behind the play. He took a seat on the bench after picking up his third foul at 6:46 of the first quarter.
Any objective observer could see that the Raptors were seriously outmatched, but they did tease the home crowd by shrinking the Suns’ lead to four midway through the second quarter. Toronto did most of their damage at the free throw line, getting into the bonus at 9:31, which also resulted in Amare Stoudemire spending the remainder of the period watching from the sidelines after collecting his third foul. As long as Steve Nash is in any game, though, the Suns’ high-powered machine will continue to run on all cylinders. With his trademark frenetic, relentless style of play and leadership, Phoenix pulled away and took a 58-46 lead into the break.
Nash’s effect on the game was not lost on Raptor head coach Sam Mitchell. “Steve Nash is by far the best point guard in the league right now, hands down. It’s not even close. Anyone [else] who says they are is lying. Some may score more points because they shoot more, but he shoots the high percentage, gets the ball to guys where they want it, it’s unbelievable.”
The third quarter was an awesome display of power, speed and skill by the visiting team. Stoudemire shrugged off early foul trouble to dominate the paint, scoring 19 points in the quarter.
“He’s the man. (Tim) Duncan and (Kevin) Garnett do a lot of things, but as far as raw quickness, a hunger, he attacks the ball. He attacks the rim like he wants to bite it. When he gets up in the air he’s fearless”, said coach Mitchell in his post-game press conference.
Phoenix scored an incredible 46 points in the third quarter and even though the outcome was never in doubt, the game had officially become a rout.
“Obviously they are a great team, they are a running team and they have the potential to score a lot of points. It was embarrassing to allow them to get what they wanted on the floor, whether it was open shots or dunks, especially in the third”, said Raptor veteran Jalen Rose.
Going into the fourth quarter the score was 104-72, and garbage time had begun. Toronto began the final frame with a 9-0 run though. Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni must have had weak nerves as he immediately brought back starters Stoudemire and Quentin Richardson back into the game, even though the Suns were never in danger of even letting their lead slip to single digits.
“I was over here sweating, we were [outscored] about 9-0 in two minutes, he wanted to go in before but I said no. I was going to keep him out the whole time, but in this league it got too close. I didn’t want to play Steve, so we struggled without him anyway. When they went 9-0 I just got scared. He’s young and it wouldn’t hurt him anyway, and I just wanted to make sure we won”, said D’Antoni of his decision to put Nash back in the game.
Chris Bosh once again led the Raps in scoring with 27 points, and he added six rebounds. Toronto fans can only wonder what kind of dynamic duo Bosh and Nash would have formed. Even Nash admits he contemplated playing in his home country.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind, playing in Toronto. It’s a great country, a great city. It’s a great organization. To play for Toronto would be great”, said Nash.
Meanwhile the point guard that did sign with Toronto, afer Alston, was suspended two games after an incident that occurred during Saturday’s practice. Team officials are keeping tight-lipped, but it appears that Alston’s temper has once again put him in the doghouse. He will miss a road game in Indiana on Wednesday, but will be eligible to practice with the team again the next day.