TORONTO – Steve Nash again made his annual trip home to Canada one to remember.
Nash had 20 points and 16 assists, Jason Richardson scored 22 points and the Phoenix Suns won their fourth straight game, 113-94 over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t trade him for any guard in the league, I really wouldn’t,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said of Nash. “The way we play and what we want to do, he’s my guy. I wouldn’t trade him.”
While he appreciated the sentiment, Nash jokingly suggested Gentry might find at least one deal too good to refuse.
“That’s really sweet of him but I’m sure if they offered Chris Paul for me, he’d kick me out the door,” said Nash, a Victoria native.
Amare Stoudemire had 18 points and Leandro Barbosa added 17 before leaving with a sore left ankle. Channing Frye scored 15 as Phoenix won its 12th straight over Toronto.
Although X-rays were negative, Barbosa said he doesn’t expect to play in either of the two remaining games on this road trip and suggested he could be out as long as two weeks.
It’s the sixth time Nash has recorded more than 15 assists against Toronto. The two-time MVP posted a Facebook message on Sunday morning thanking Canadian fans for their support and calling his visit to Toronto “one of my favourite games of the year.” He got a loud ovation when he was introduced before the game.
Nash was raised on Canada’s West Coast but spent several summers in Toronto training and playing for the Canadian national team, where he was coached by current Raptors coach Jay Triano.
“It’s a special game for me, no question,” Nash said. “I wish we could play here more than once, that’s for sure.”
Phoenix forward Grant Hill said the Suns know how much the lone Canadian game on the schedule means to Nash.
“This trip is a big, big deal for him,” Hill said. “We’re just glad we don’t lose or he’d be really upset.”
The Suns have not lost to the Raptors since a 101-94 defeat on Feb. 10, 2004, the final meeting before Nash re-signed with the team. Nash scored the decisive basket in Phoenix’s 101-100 home win over Toronto on Nov. 15, converting a three-point play in the final minute.
Gentry said Nash’s contribution in this one was just as meaningful.
“Steve did a great job,” Gentry said. “He just controlled the whole game.”
Six different Phoenix players reached double-figure scoring, and the Suns finished 13 of 30 from 3-point range. The Raptors made just one of 20.
“It comes down to 3-pointers,” Triano said. “They are the best 3-point shooting team in the league and you can see why. We are the third best and we didn’t really show it today.”
Chris Bosh had 30 points and 17 rebounds for Toronto, which has lost three straight and seven of nine. Andrea Bargnani had 24 points and DeMar DeRozan had 14.
“I know you guys are going to think I’m crazy but I thought we did a good job on Chris Bosh,” Gentry said, laughing. “With the muscle that he’s added, I think he’s impossible. I don’t know how you guard him or what you do.”
Elsewhere in the NBA, it was: Clippers 98, Grizzlies 88; Pistons 94, Hawks 88; Celtics 92, Heat 85; Magic 114, Knicks 102; Spurs 97, 76ers 89; Rockets 100, Thunder 91; Timberwolves 106, Nuggets 100; Kings 112, Hornets 96; and Lakers 106, Nets 87.
At Toronto, Raptors guard Hedo Turkoglu scored on a three-point play to cut the lead to 84-79 early in the fourth, but the Raptors couldn’t get any closer. Stoudemire capped a 6-0 run with a putback dunk, two of his eight points in the fourth, and the Suns weren’t threatened again.
Nash came in averaging an NBA-high and career-best 11.8 assists and had seven in the first quarter. He fed Stoudemire on all four of his baskets, including two dunks, as the Suns opened a 33-25 lead after one.
Held to three points in the first quarter, Bosh scored 16 in the second, making seven of 10 shots as Toronto trimmed it to 50-49 at the half.
Phoenix used a 10-2 run early in the third to push its lead back to double digits, then kept on scoring. The Raptors responded by closing the quarter on a 15-6 run, with Turkoglu’s three-point play making it 84-76.
Two days after he was kneed in the “pelvic region” on a dunk by Boston’s Paul Pierce, Bosh took another hard knock in this one, getting shoved to the ground by Stoudemire as he drove to the basket with 4:18 left in the second. Stoudemire was called for a flagrant foul.
Bosh’s teammates, who didn’t react Friday as Pierce stood over Toronto’s leading scorer in a taunting pose, were more vocal this time, with Jose Calderon briefly getting into Stoudemire’s face before being yanked away by Richardson.
Calderon knocked Nash to the floor on a drive early in the third but no flagrant foul was called and Calderon was the first to help Nash to his feet.
Clippers 98, Grizzlies 88
At Los Angeles, Eric Gordon scored 29 points and the Clippers rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat Memphis, giving coach Mike Dunleavy his 600th regular-season victory.
Pistons 94, Hawks 88
At Detroit, Ben Wallace had 18 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards, to help the undermanned Pistons end a seven-game losing streak.
Celtics 92, Heat 85
At Miami, Kevin Garnett scored 24 points on 11 of 12 shooting, Ray Allen delivered the big blow with a three-pointer with 1:38 left and the Boston Celtics rallied to beat the Miami Heat.
Magic 114, Knicks 102
At New York, Rashard Lewis scored 13 of his season-high 26 points in the third quarter and Orlando won its sixth straight on the road.
Spurs 97, 76ers 89
At San Antonio, Tim Duncan scored 22 points, Tony Parker added 16 and the Spurs won their fifth straight.
Rockets 100, Thunder 91
At Oklahoma City, Aaron Brooks scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half and Carl Landry had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead Houston.
Timberwolves 106, Nuggets 100
At Denver, Ryan Gomes scored 27 points to help Minnesota snap a 15-game losing streak.
Kings 112, Hornets 96
At Sacramento, Calif., Sergio Rodriguez scored a career-high 24 points, Jason Thompson had 22 points and 14 rebounds and Sacramento won its third straight.
Lakers 106, Nets 87
At Los Angeles, the New Jersey Nets matched the worst start to an NBA season with their 17th straight loss, with Kobe Bryant scoring 30 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 106-87 victory.
A few hours after New Jersey fired coach Lawrence Frank, the undermanned Nets had little prayer of keeping up with the defending league champions, who won their sixth straight game.