The rumours were true Andrea Bargnani after 6 games on the shelf was back. It would be a slow start for Bargnani but he would get hotter than a Phoenix afternoon in July by time this one was done. Suns were returning home after a loss last night in Dallas. Raptors needed to jump on them early but Raptors just can't seem to do that even with Andrea Bargnani. The Suns powered by as always Steve Nash, were out to an early 27-17 lead. It seemed like despite the return of Bargnani it was going to be more of the same for the Raptors. Bargnani was not the only line-up change by the way, Amir Johnson it would appear in Dwane Casey's dog house as Aaron Gray replaced him in the starting line-up. Amir only played just over 12 minutes in this one. Demar DeRozan also saw little action in the late stages of this game as his shooting woes continued going 2-8 on the night and just 4 points.
But no Young Onez were needed as Andrea Bargnani started to get on track in the 2nd and would explode in the 3rd. Speaking of explosions Robin Lopez would get ejected from this game and even Canada's favourite son Steve Nash got a technical foul. The Suns despite the good start seemed to be easily frustrated the rest of the way. Leandro Barbosa would get the Raptors going in the right direction with back to back 3's in the second and it seemed to spark the offence as they scored 31 points in the 2nd and cut the lead down to 4 at the half. It had been a long time since the Raptors were still in a close game heading into a 2nd half. In the third quarter Andrea Bargnani just went off on the offensive end. He looked every bit the "Italian three point master" as the lyric goes in the TBJ All Star Campaign Video. He was on fire from behind the line hitting one from the top of the arc that was at least 2-3 feet behind the line with ease. In total Bargnani would ring up 18 points of the Raptors 31 in quarter. Raptors were up 8 heading to the final quarter.
It wouldn't be the Raptors if they just cruised on to the easy win would it? Steve Nash has never lost to the Raptors in his second tour of duty with the Suns. A perfect 14-0 heading into tonight. The last win ironically came in 2004 with another coach that was all about defence in Kevin O'Neil. He would lead the Raptors to their last win in Phoenix with some guy named Vince Carter. To put it perspective Jerryd Bayless who is from the Phoenix area was a freshman in high school. So back to the Raptors trying to hang on for dear life. They would hold a 10 point lead most of the way but Steve Nash had some fight left in him and would try to will his team to a win. Suns would get very close, the Raptors appeared to be home and cooled out but then Butler happened. Rasaul Butler would throw the ball away and Suns cut the lead to 4 points in late stages. Raptors would call a time out. Jose Calderon who has never got much love from the DNB went totally loco on Butler and with just cause. He just has been a complete failure. But Bargnani would make a few free throws and the Raptors would dodge the bullet and get out of Arizona with a win 99-96.
This was the Andrea Bargnani Show as he finished with a season high 36 points, a perfect 12-12 at the line 10-21 from the field and 4-6 from 3 point land. The fact he only had 6 rebounds we will FORGET ABOUT IT!!! After all he was the single reason this team got a win they badly needed. Best supporting role honours to James Johnson who is learning how to make some shots as he had 18 points and had Andrea's back with 10 rebounds. Barbosa did the early damage as Bargs was heating up as he had 19 points in his former home going 7-14 and was 3-3 from three point land.
As much as I am truly thrilled the Raptors ended their losing streak I don't think they are out of the woods by any stretch. But looking on the other side of the floor it was so sad watching Steve Nash try and will something out of a Suns team that is just not good enough. If you have a heart and soul you could not help but want to see Steve Nash get a new lease on life with a contender. Aside from Marcin Gortat there was very little help for Steve Nash.
Enjoy it while you can folks. Utah a team that I figured would struggle has been the surprise team of this NBA Season. A win tomorrow will be much tougher. But after 8 losses you deserve to enjoy it. Wins are not going to come easy this season. So enjoy every one as much as you can.