The Toronto Raptors spoiled Steve Nash’s homecoming and opened their exhibition season in Vancouver with a 129-78 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
In front of 18,123 fans at Rogers Arena, it was another local hero, Jay Triano, who had the last laugh.
Triano, who spent many years of his life in Vancouver as a player and eventual coach of the Simon Fraser University Clansmen, watched as his Raps held Nash to nine points in just over 22 minutes of playing time.
Although Nash, the Victoria native, recieved plenty of cheers early, Toronto forward Linas Kleiza stole the show. Kleiza led all scorers with 20 points, while adding five rebounds and two steals.
DeMar DeRozan scored 16 points for Toronto, while Joey Dorsey added 13 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
It was the first pre-season game of the year for the Raptors, who ended a six-day training session in Vancouver, however, it was the second game in as many nights for the Suns. Pheonix remain winless thus far, at 0-3.
“We told the guys before we had to set the tone,” Triano told reporters after the game. “He’s [Nash] very good and it’s early. Back-to-backs early in the season are really tough, especially at this stage.”
Jared Dudley was one of the lone bright spots for the Suns, he scored 10 points, while former Raptor Hedo Turkoglu chipped in six points, and led Phoenix with eight rebounds.
However, Turkoglu heard many boos and jeers each time he touched the ball, a testimate to a large contingent of toronto fans on hand.
“I can’t wait to see [what it’s like in] Toronto,” Turkoglu said with a smile. “That should be fun.”
While Turkoglu did not spend much time reminiscing with his former teammates before the game, Nash and Triano did share a long embrace prior to tipoff. (Triano coached Nash at Simon Fraser, as well as with the Canadian National team.)
The game started slowly, as both teams showed rust early on.
The lead changed hands eight times in the opening six minutes, with both teams shooting a low percentage.
The Suns took a 15-10 lead into the final minutes of the first quarter, after Nash hit a free throw and a jumper back-to-back. However, that was when the Raps woke up.
Toronto went on a 14-3 run and never looked back. Nash was held to two points in the second quarter, and the Raptors led 55-39 at the half.
Grant Hill, who had started the game at forward for the Suns, had six points in the first half before running into Reggie Evans in front of the Toronto bench, where a tussle would quickly see both players ejected.
Nash played only briefly in the second half, and the Raptors cruised to the easy victory. Nevertheless, after the game, Suns` head coach Alvin Gentry did not seemed worried about his two-time MVP`s performance.
“When it comes time, Steve will be Steve,” Gentry told reporters. “Obviously Steve’s not going to be sitting on the bench when the game’s on the line. No, he’s not going to be playing for 22 minutes. Everything changes when it starts for real.”