TORONTO, Dec. 9 (Ticker) -- Jerome Williams
left the back door open and Penny Hardaway
went right through it.
Hardaway's reverse layup off an inbounds play at the buzzer gave the Phoenix Suns a 91-90 victory over the Toronto Raptors, who wasted another huge game by Vince Carter.
Carter followed in his own miss with three seconds remaining to give him 42 points and Toronto its first lead of the fourth quarter. Phoenix called timeout and set up a play with Hardaway inbounding from the right sideline.
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Jake Voskuhl and the Suns got the jump on the Raptors.
Williams was defending the pass, which Hardaway lobbed into Rodney Rogers
in the low post. When Williams inexplicably moved to the top of the circle, Hardaway cut to the basket, took the return pass from Rogers, went underneath the rim and flipped in a lefthanded layup as the horn sounded.
"I know he is going to kick himself for overplaying that play at the end," Hardaway said. "I figured once I threw the ball to Rodney, he (Williams) was going to turn his head and that is when I went back-door and it was there. Rodney made a great pass to lead me to the basket."
"In three seconds you can go from a high to a low really fast," Williams said. "What we were trying to do did not work. It was my job to jump out on Stephon (Marbury); I did. They made a quick pass to Rodney and Penny just back cut and took me out of the play. He (Rogers) made a good pass over the top and Penny finished it from there."
Stephon Marbury, Phoenix's best creator, was a decoy on the play.
"The play was drawn up for Penny to get the ball," he said. "I was pretty much the decoy. If I had been the first option, I would have been open right away."
"It was more or less for Rodney to make an initial look to Stephon on the back cut," Suns coach Scott Skiles said. "I don't know if he (Williams) slipped but Penny made a great basketball play."
Hardaway scored 27 points. He bounced back from a poor outing in Friday's overtime loss in Boston in which he made 6-of-23 shots and committed nine turnovers.
"Those are the moments that when you're a young kid and you hit the last-second shot for your team to win that you think about all the time and we needed it," he said.
Carter had 42 points for the second straight game and continued to torment Phoenix. He has explosions of 42 and a career-high 51 points against the Suns and has 205 points in the last five meetings.
"It isn't about 40-point games. It's about winning games," Carter said. "I'm here to win games like everyone else. It doesn't even matter how much I score. It's about putting it in when needed."
Williams, who prides himself on hustle, defense and rebounding, also was beat on a back-door cut on another inbounds play. From beneath the basket, Shawn Marion passed to a cutting Rogers, who burned Williams and hammered home a dunk for an 88-86 lead with 1:12 left. Rogers scored 12 points.
Carter and Marion traded turnovers before Carter made a fadeaway jumper to tie it with 38 seconds to go. At the other end, 52 percent foul shooter Bo Outlaw made 1-of-2 from the line to give the Suns an 89-88 lead with 22 seconds remaining.
Baskets by Rogers and Marbury opened the fourth quarter and gave the Suns a 72-62 lead. Carter triggered a tying 10-0 surge with a pair of baskets.
"We had to step up and play him," Marion said. "He took a lot more shots in the second half. He kept on shooting the ball. What can you do? We had to stop everybody and then worry about Vince."
A 3-pointer by Hardaway rebuilt the lead to 84-78 with 3:50 to play, but 3-pointers by Morris Peterson and Carter helped the Raptors tie it again, 86-86, with 1:37 left.
"I thought we sucked it up in the fourth quarter and fought back," Williams said.
Marbury had 22 points and 12 assists and Marion added 16 and 12 rebounds for Phoenix, which shot 46 percent (36-of-79) from the field as it salavaged the finale of its three-game road trip.
"We have to play better," Skiles said. "This was a brutally ugly game by both teams. It's one we had to have and we're glad to have it."
Tracy Murray scored 14 points off the bench and Keon Clark added 10 and 15 rebounds for the Raptors, which shot just 41 percent (36-of-87) but held a 48-35 rebounding edge.
"We just have to play better," Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens said. "We have to come out ready and not get behind teams. We will watch video and remind people of what they have to do. We are not running and we did not execute offensively."
Carter scored 14 points in the second quarter to turn a 25-18 deficit into a 48-43 halftime lead. However, the Suns began the third quarter with a 15-2 run and opened a 58-50 advantage on a basket by Marion midway through the period.