Phoenix 100, Toronto 98

TORONTO, Jan. 3 (AP) -- Steve Nash struggled for most of his first game in Canada this season before showing in the fourth quarter why he is a two-time MVP.

Nash scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 100-98 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.

Nash was only 1-for-7 from the field through three quarters, but he recovered in the fourth. The Canadian - dubbed "Captain Canada'' - scored eight of Phoenix's final nine points.

"I just felt really slow and old for three quarters and then all of a sudden I had a rebirth,'' said Nash, who had eight points in the final 1:19.

He also had nine assists for the Suns, who are 22-3 since starting the season 1-5.

"That was a struggle for me,'' Nash said. "Physically I didn't feel great and I didn't play great, but my teammates did a great job of sticking with it and I just tried to be there for them in the fourth quarter.''

Attendance was 20,063 - the fifth largest regular-season crowd in Air Canada Centre history.

Toronto's Chris Bosh returned from a 12-game absence and had 26 points and 14 rebounds.

After Bosh's layup gave Toronto a 92-91 lead with 1:23 left, Nash followed just four seconds later with a 3-pointer to regain the lead for Phoenix.

Bosh followed with a three-point play to give Toronto a 95-93 lead with 1:02 left, but Bosh fouled Nash on a 3-point attempt. Nash made his first free throws of the game to give Phoenix a 97-95 lead with 43 seconds left.

After Toronto's Andrea Bargnani committed an offensive foul, Nash made a 15-foot fadeaway jumper over Bosh to make it 99-95 with 11 seconds remaining.

"It takes a lot of guts to take those shots that he takes, but that's why he is who he is,'' Bosh said.

Toronto's Anthony Parker followed with a 3-pointer, but Shawn Marion made one of two free throws and Toronto's Darrick Martin missed badly on a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

"Steve made some big shots for us. He came up big for us at the end. What more can you ask,'' Marion said.

Raja Bell had 17 points and eight rebounds for Suns, who had six players score in double figures. The Suns went 3-0 on their eastern road trip.

Toronto has lost three straight.

The Suns led by as many as 17 in the first half, but Martin rallied Toronto with consecutive 3-pointers during a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter as Toronto took a one-point lead.

The Raptors played without two other starters. Point guard T.J. Ford missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle and forward Jorge Garbajosa missed the game with a strained calf.

Bosh said he felt good. He played 41 minutes.

Notes: Nash received the 2006 Lionel Conacher Award as Canadian male athlete of the year before the game. He was asked about winning a third straight MVP. "Having won twice, I never would have predicted that, so my bank account's full, I can't really lose,'' Nash said. "If I don't win it this year, it's no big deal. If I do, it obviously would just be incredible.'' ... Former Raptor Jalen Rose greeted everyone when he arrived at the Air Canada Centre.


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited