As I mentioned in the game thread, there was something a little anti-climatic about this game coming on the tail end of a western road swing through San Antonio and Dallas, and just ahead of a rematch against the Lakers in LA. This didn't have that "big game" feel to it that we got to see last week, and should get to see again on Tuesday. But the Suns took care of business just the same.
In a formula we've seen quite often, the Raptors kept the game close in the first half, despite this being their fourth road game in five days. But tired legs met determined Suns in the third quarter, and the game turned into a blowout. In another formula familiar to Suns fans, the Suns allowed a career night by Chris Bosh (42 points), but it kept the other Raptors from torching the Suns from outside. The Raptors, who lead the league in three-point percentage at 43%, were held to just 26%. The Suns easily won the three point battle, going 44% on 11-of-25. But it's probably more accurate to say that Leandro Barbosa won the three-point battle. He was 7-of-10 on threes all by himself, making up for an otherwise less-than-stellar long distance shooting night from just about everyone else. Barbosa ended up with a team-high 31 points, furthering the case made by some fans that he should become the full-time starter.
If the Suns weren't getting it done from behind the arc except for LB, they sure were getting it done from everywhere else. The Suns shot 52% overall, with everyone in the starting lineup except for Steve Nash (3-of-7) shooting 50% or better. Amare Stoudemire led the way in the accuracy department, going 11-of-18 on his way to 28 points. Grant Hill followed closely with 9-of-15 and ended up with 25 points. Shawn Marion's 5-of-9 netted him 12 points, and Nash had seven. But anyone who thinks Nash was slacking wasn't watching the game--he's a big part of why his fellow starters were on fire. This was one of those nights when you got the feeling Nash could have ended up with 20+ assists had he been needed for longer than 31 minutes. Instead, he ended up with 16 assists, no turnovers, and a team-high +23 in the plus/minus column.
The passing seemed to be infectious at times tonight. While Nash led the way by far in credited assists, the ball was really being shared by everyone. Marion had a quiet night by his standards on the board and on the scoreboard, but he netted five assists and a team-high three blocks. All-in-all, while this game likely won't make it into the list of favorite games of the season, it was a nice workmanship performance by the Suns--the kind that was missing in those games against Miami and Minnesota a couple of weeks back.
Player of the Game: Tough choice. I'm going with Steve Nash because it seemed like his play-making was the biggest difference here. But it could just as easily be Leandro Barbosa--that stretch where it seemed he just couldn't miss from three was huge (incidentally, at least two of those shots were off of Nash assists). Another valid choice is Amare Stoudemire, particularly with his work on the boards. Grant Hill is also an excellent choice. You really can't go wrong with any of those guys tonight, but I'll let the plus/minus be the tie-breaker (as much as I hate that stat).
Runner-Up: Chris Bosh. A career-high will get you a mention here every time.
Grading the Game: I'll say "A-". The part of me that likes intense, competitive games (or at least games where something really memorable happens) wants to knock it down a tad for failing to be the kind of game I want to save on my DVR for repeated viewings. But that's not the Suns' fault. They did what they were supposed to do. "A-" it is.