Shaq's season high helps Suns top Marion, RaptorsFeb 28, 2009 - 6:16 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- With one former MVP on the sidelines, another stepped up for the Phoenix Suns.
Shaquille O'Neal scored a season-high 45 points on 20-of-25 shooting and added 11 rebounds to lead the Suns to a 133-113 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday.
Louis Amundson added a career-high 20 points off the bench and Matt Barnes had 18 for Phoenix, which was playing its second straight game without Steve Nash due to an ankle injury.
Coming off an embarrassing, 132-106 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, the Suns turned to their big man and ask him to put them on his back. As he has so many times during his career, O'Neal delivered.
"It was cool," O'Neal said. "Guys were really looking for me, and I have been saying all year if I get the touches like that I can do that every night. I've been doing it on a consistent basis for 17 years and they were looking for me tonight."
The 15-time All-Star put on his most impressive display since joining Phoenix last season. O'Neal scored 23 points in the first half to help the Suns keep pace and then put on a dunking exhibition en route to 13 points over a six-minute stretch in the fourth quarter to help them pull away.
"It doesn't matter who is out there, Yao Ming, (Tim) Duncan," O'Neal said. "If I can get touches like that it doesn't matter who is out there. They are going to have to double and triple me especially now the way I am shooting free throws. I think I am the only player that looks at each center and every center and says to myself 'That's barbecue chicken down there.'"
"I don't think it had too much to do with their run game as it had to do with them getting the ball to one guy," Raptors interim coach Jay Triano said. "If you eliminate Shaq's points we have a pretty good game. We tried fronting him, playing from behind. I don't know what else you can do."
O'Neal's display spoiled the homecoming of Shawn Marion, who spent the first 8 1/2 seasons of his career with Phoenix before being sent away in exchange for O'Neal at last season's deadline.
"It was cool. It is always nice to come back here," Marion said. "This is where it all started."
Marion finished with a season-high 27 points and added 11 rebounds.
"We were right there, man," Marion said. "I don't know what happened. We just hit the tank or something and everything just sort of went the other way. It is frustrating because I think the fight in us just went out the window."
Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani - the pair charged with guarding O'Neal most of the night - combined for 40 points and 16 rebounds for the Raptors, who had a two-game winning streak snapped.
"Our bench again played well, they allowed us to rest our starters and obviously Shaq had a great game," Phoenix interim coach Alvin Gentry said. "We thought we would have an advantage there with Bargnani and Chris Bosh guarding him."
With Nash on the sidelines, Grant Hill took over most of the playmaking duties, finishing with 14 points and a season-high 12 assists.
"I have few games were I wasn't as confident as I could have been but I got off to a good start tonight," said Amundson, who was on the receiving end of a few of Hill's passes. "Shaq was drawing so much attention I was able to cut in and finishing shots."
PHOENIX 133 FINAL
Feb 27 11:31 PM
PHOENIX 96 END, 3RD QTR
Feb 27 10:55 PM
PHOENIX 68 HALFTIME
Feb 27 10:14 PM
PHOENIX 37 END, 1ST QTR
Feb 27 9:41 PM
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