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Nash returns to Canada, helps Suns down Raptors

Jan 18, 2009 - 10:08 PM TORONTO (Ticker) -- Steve Nash wished he could return to his native Canada every week, and why wouldn't he? He can't lose there.

Nash had nine points and a season-high 18 assists, leading the Phoenix Suns to a ninth straight win over the Toronto Raptors, 117-113, on Sunday.

Amare Stoudemire scored 31 points and Jason Richardson added 17 for Phoenix, which shot 54 percent (43-of-79). Shaquille O'Neal had 16 points and four rebounds before fouling out for the Suns, who opened a season-high six-game road trip on a high note.

Anthony Parker scored 26 points for Toronto, which had five players in double figures. Joey Graham had a career-high 22 points for the Raptors, who have lost five straight.

Nash continued to have his way with the Raptors.

Toronto has not beaten Phoenix since a 101-94 road victory on February 10, 2004 - the last meeting between the teams before Nash re-signed with Phoenix. A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Nash improved 18-2 all-time against Toronto.

"It was a great afternoon for me to come back here and get such a nice ovation from the fans during the warm-up and to play against (interim Raptors head coach) Jay (Triano) and see a lot of faces I know," Nash said.

"It's a shame we only visit here once a year. I wish we could come back every week."

Nash consistently found open teammates, then came up with the biggest shot of the game after Toronto missed a chance to take the lead.

Parker - starting his second straight game for the injured Jose Calderon (hamstring) - banked a layup high off the glass to cut Toronto's deficit to 114-113 with 1:17 to play. But on the next possession, Parker took and missed an ill-advised 3-pointer.

Nash then drove the lane and banked a shot in before hitting the deck with 12 seconds left for a 116-13 lead.

Toronto opted to go for a quick basket rather than a game-tying 3-pointer. Parker had a lane to the basket, but his layup rolled out, and Chris Bosh missed the putback with five seconds left.

The Raptors fouled Stoudemire, who hit one of two free throws for the final margin.

"It's just so dissappointing time and time again to come up short at the end," Parker said. "We're playing good basketball, especially with the amount of bodies we had available."

In a back-and-forth contest, Graham tied the game at 102-102 with 7:03 to play.

O'Neal snapped the tie and Nash hit five straight free throws for a 109-104 advantage. Toronto drew to within 110-109 moments later, but Nash split the defense and found Matt Barnes for an easy layup.

Less than a minute later, Nash dished to Stoudemire for a 114-109 lead with 3:16 to play. And after Parker missed the go-ahead 3-pointer, Nash dealt the knock out blow with 12 ticks remaining.

"I just try to draw two defenders and find an open teammate," Nash said. "Amare did a great job of finishing. I always try to be more aggessive in the fourth quarter. Tonight we did a good job of helping each other."

"It's big to start off a road trip with a win," Stoudemire said. "They played well, they shot the ball well and defended but we were able to counter it and were able to come away with the win."

Bosh had 20 points and 12 rebounds for Toronto, which shot 53 percent (44-of-82).

"The effort was there," Bosh said. "It really came down to a couple of mental mistakes where we gave Steve Nash five free throws and that put us at a disadvantage.

"We were still in a position to win that game and if AP (Parker) makes that shot which he normally makes you never know what could have happened."