No down to the wire nailbiter this time. After letting the opposition pull uncomfortably close at the end of the first half for the second game in a row, the Suns brought the hammer down in the third quarter. They outscored the Raptors 45-29 in that quarter. No, that's not a typo. 45-29!
This was a great game to watch if you like offense. If you like to see guys put the ball in the hole, this was the game for you. The Suns had seven players in double-digits. The Raptors had five in double-digits, and three near-misses with eight points each. The Suns were led by Leandro Barbosa, who rediscovered his three-pointer (5-of-14) on his way to 35 points. The most efficient shooting night came courtesy of Amare Stoudemire, who went 9-of-11 for 25 points, and made all seven of his free throws. Grant Hill ended up with a near double-double, adding nine assists to his 17 points. Quite amazing considering that Steve Nash had 18 assists of his own. The Suns as a team had 38. From my view, though, the most encouraging line of the night belonged to Boris Diaw, who played like it was 2005-06 all over again. Shawn Marion's first quarter foul trouble gave Boris the early call, and he answered emphatically with a 7-11 shooting night (14 points), lots of hustle, and the aggressiveness Suns fans have been waiting to see from him all season. Was it just the sense that his team needed him, or did somebody have a sit-down with him? Either way, this was very nice to see.
It seemed like players on both teams took turns sharing the spotlight at times. Barbosa had a spurt in the second quarter where he looked absolutely unstoppable (as in "LB against the Lakers" unstoppable). In the third quarter, Raja Bell seemed to take issue with getting a technical called on him, and proceeded to take it out on the Raptors for the next few possessions. For the Raptors, it was T.J. Ford and Anthony Parker doing most of the damage with 27 and 22 points respectively. Jose Calderon and Rasho Nesterovic also made their presence known, particularly Nesterovic, who seemed to thrive on cringe-inducing offensive rebounds and putbacks. The Raptors gave it a good shot and played well, especially considering how short-handed they were. But in the end, it was just too much Suns firepower, as our guys scored a season high 136 points, and came away with the win for the fifteenth time this season.
Player of the Game: Steve Nash. There are a lot of guys who deserve it tonight, and some with better lines in the boxscore. But Steve sealed the deal when he had to re-enter the game in the fourth quarter after the Raptors had cut a 21-point lead down to 13. As is usually the case, the Suns started scoring again, and the rout immediately resumed.
Honorable Mentions: Leandro Barbosa, Amare Stoudemire, Grant Hill, Shawn Marion, Raja Bell, and Boris Diaw all made good cases for Player of the Game at times, prompting me to add a rare "Honorable Mention" section for this game. Brian Skinner probably would go here too had he played more than five minutes. In other words, this was a total team effort tonight.
Runner-Up: Kind of a tough call, since much like the Suns, the Raptors had different players who went on mini-spurts at different times. I'll go with T.J. Ford. 27 points and 4 assists is pretty good for a guy coming off the bench in his first game back from injury.
Grading the Game: Despite my well-documented preference for close, competitive games, scoring 136 points on the second night of a back-to-back is pretty impressive. This one's an "A".