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News » Kid Canada romps over struggling Raps

Kid Canada romps over struggling Raps

Kid Canada romps over struggling RapsBasketball REPORTER

Two stars; two dressing rooms; two athletes at different stages of their careers on teams heading in different directions.

The Air Canada Centre is Chris Bosh's home court, his place of work since he broke into the NBA as a gangly rookie in 2003.

But once a year, it feels like he's the visitor - coinciding with the annual appearance by Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns star point guard from Victoria. Nash authored the Suns' casual 113-94 blowout of the Raptors yesterday afternoon in front of 17,721 fans who greeted Nash warmly and enthusiastically even as he was enjoying his 12th consecutive win over Toronto.

Does Nash take his citizenship seriously?

Apparently. He hasn't been dressed and on the losing end of a game - home or away - to Canada's NBA team since Nov. 2, 2001, when he was still with the Dallas Mavericks, a streak of 17 games over eight seasons.

"It's one night of 82 on the floor, but it's much more special than that with all the other things surrounding the game," said Nash who crafted a masterful 20-point, 16-assist outing as the Suns routed Toronto in the second half after leading by just a point at the end of two quarters. "My history here spending summers here during my summers with the national team, it feels like a home-away-from-home for me and the support I get from Toronto and from Raptors fans is overwhelming. It's a special game; I wish we could play here more than once."

How long the streak will last is unknown given that Nash is 35 years old, but he seems to be having so much fun running a rejuvenated Suns team that the two-year contract extension he signed last summer seems too short. Phoenix is an NBA-best 14-3, and Nash is meeting or surpassing the statistical standards he set for himself during his back-to-back MVP seasons in 2004-05 and 2005-06.

"I still love my teammates and love my team," he said. "It takes a lot preparation as you get older to stay fit and stay sharp. It's a lot of sacrifice because I love playing and love winning and I love being part of the team."

Chipped in Grant Hill, another veteran who has found some spark playing with Nash, who long ago found the balance between getting his teammates all the easy shots they could ever want - the Suns lead the NBA if field-goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage - and then taking the hard ones himself when duty calls.

"He just keeps going and gets everyone involved, gets himself going and puts so much pressure on the defence," said Hill. "He is kid Canada."

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said - quite seriously - that he'd prefer Nash over any guard in the NBA, but Nash wouldn't bite.

"That's really sweet of the old guy," Nash said. "But I'm sure if they offered [New Orleans Hornets star] Chris Paul, he'd kick me out the door pretty fast."

But Nash was in position to deliver the odd light line.

The contrast in the Raptors dressing room was palpable; the mood has been heavy lately as befits a team with playoff aspirations limping along at 7-11.

While Nash's teammates are busy paying tribute, Bosh has to answer how he feels about his teammates walking away from him when the Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce dunked on him Friday night, taunted him and left him writhing on the ground in pain after kneeing him in the groin.

Yesterday, the Raptors passed that test at least, coming to Bosh's aid when the Suns Amare Stoudemire knocked Bosh down with a flagrant foul when he drove to the basket in the third quarter.

But as he approaches his professional peak at age 25, Bosh doesn't give the air of someone in love with the daily grind even after posting another monster stat line - 30 points, 17 rebounds - only to have his club blown out for the third game in a row. The Raptors are the worst defensive team in the NBA and proved the point yesterday when they allowed the Suns to shoot 51.2 per cent from the floor and 43.3 per cent from deep.

The Raptors also shot just 39.1 per cent and a woeful 1-of-20 from deep, many of those misses giving up long rebounds that fuelled the Suns transition game.

And if the fans who booed the Raptors off the floor - the same ones who cheered Nash - would like to see the reserved Bosh begin shaking his teammates out of their lethargy, he isn't sure that's the answer.

"I don't think that will work," he said. "We've tried that a little bit. Whatever happens, happens. I'll try anything though. Whatever it takes to win; that's my position on everything. We just have to turn this around and find a way to win Basketball games."


NOTES When Chris Bosh was asked what it would take for the Raptors to put together a couple of wins, his answer was simple, but it didn't mean making it happen would be simple: "Play better in the third quarters, rebound the Basketball, play good defence, that's really it. It's not rocket science or anything ... we just need to force our will a little bit. Sometimes in the third quarter we give up easy shots and we don't get easy shots. That's a recipe for disaster." The Raptors were outscored 34-27 in the third quarter yesterday. ... Andrea Bargnani was the only Raptor to make a three-pointer; his shot kept the team's NBA-record streak of three-pointers made alive at 878 games.

NEXT Tomorrow night against Washington, 7 p.m. at the ACC TV The Score

Michael Grange

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Added: November 30, 2009


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