Stoudemire's 31 points, Nash's 18 assists lift Suns to win

TORONTO -- Still seething from an overtime defeat in Denver and a narrow home loss to Minnesota, Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire pegged Sunday's game in Toronto as a must-win. And with the Raptors charging in the fourth quarter, Stoudemire took over.

Stoudemire scored 31 points, Steve Nash had a season-high 18 assists and the Suns beat Toronto 117-113 on Sunday afternoon, their ninth consecutive victory over the struggling Raptors.

"After a tough loss to Minnesota, it felt like this was a win we definitely needed," Stoudemire said.

Jason Richardson added 17 points, Shaquille O'Neal and Matt Barnes each had 16 and Leandro Barbosa scored 14 for Phoenix.

Stoudemire scored 11 points in the fourth as the Suns won the opener of a six-game road trip.

"We're a different team when he plays at that level," Suns coach Terry Porter said of Stoudemire. "It makes it very difficult for teams to match up with us with Shaq on the floor, and other weapons we have, when he brings that type of energy and scoring power."

Nash sealed it for Phoenix on a driving layup with 12.9 seconds to play, and drew rave reviews for his distribution.

"That's something Steve has been doing ever since we've been together," Stoudemire said. "Nash and Stat is a heck of a 1-2 punch. The way Steve was playing tonight, he played phenomenal."

Nash, who made just two turnovers, didn't mind taking only six shots in more than 36 minutes.

"I try to draw two defenders and find an open teammate and tonight Amare was doing a great job of finishing," Nash said.

The Suns topped 100 points for the 17th time in 18 games, but first-year coach Porter isn't interested in a return to Phoenix's up-tempo style of seasons past.

"Not to my liking," Porter said.

Anthony Parker led Toronto with 26, Joey Graham scored a career-high 22 and Chris Bosh had 20 points and 12 rebounds as Toronto lost its fifth straight.

"We played better but it's just so disappointing, time and time again, to come up short at the end," Parker said.

Phoenix led 99-89 after two Stoudemire free throws with 10:33 left, but Toronto roared back to tie it at 102-all with a 13-3 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes, with Graham scoring on consecutive trips for the Raptors.

A Stoudemire dunk with 3:18 left made it 114-109, but a putback dunk by Jamario Moon and Parker's layup drew Toronto within a point.

Parker missed a 3-pointer from the top with 37 seconds remaining and Nash answered with a layup to secure the win.

"He's been fabulous all year," O'Neal said of Nash. "He controlled the game, hit guys when they're open and that's why he's one of the best point guards ever."

Both Parker and Bosh missed layups on Toronto's final possession and Stoudemire was fouled as he wrapped up the rebound with half a second left, making one of two from the line.

The Raptors had just nine players available. Guard Jose Calderon (hamstring) sat for the eighth time in nine games, guard Jason Kapono was scratched because of flu-like symptoms and forward Jermaine O'Neal, who returned from a nine-game absence Friday, rested his sore knee. O'Neal is probable for Monday's game at Atlanta.

"It was a pretty good performance by them, being undermanned, and we were lucky to win because I don't think we were mentally sharp enough," Nash said.

Toronto shuffled its lineup, with Parker starting at the point and Graham opening as the shooting guard, just his second start of the season.

Graham made the most of his opportunity, scoring seven quick points as Toronto opened a 20-10 lead with 6:34 left in the first. Phoenix called a timeout to set things straight, and a Barnes 3-pointer with less than a second left in the first gave the Suns a 36-34 lead after one.

Barnes scored eight more points in the second and Barbosa added 10 as Phoenix led 71-63 at the half.

Game notes
O'Neal picked up a technical foul in the second for an altercation with Toronto's Jake Voskuhl under the basket. ... Toronto's last win over Phoenix came Feb. 10, 2004. ... Nash exchanged a pre-game hug with Toronto coach Jay Triano, his former coach on the Canadian national team.