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The Arizona Republic

Suns at 10 games below .500 after road loss


The Arizona Republic

TORONTO – Despite blowing a lot of early opportunities, the Phoenix Suns were in position to win another game in the fourth quarter.

But they fell apart and lost, this time in an 83-73 matinee to the Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The performance left the Suns 0-2 in a four-game trip to the East.

The Suns move on to Chicago, where they face former Phoenix coach Scott Skiles and the Chicago Bulls tonight at the United Center. The Suns go in 10 games below the .500 mark in a season with a recurring theme: close but not quite.

“We just can’t close games out,” Phoenix guard Stephon Marbury said.

The Raptors went on a 10-2 run early in the final period to turn a one-point lead into a nine-point advantage.

In a game in which points were harder to come by for the Suns than a warm Canadian breeze in January, it might as well have been a 20-point difference.

Raptors guard Jalen Rose got eight of his 16 points in the final quarter. Vince Carter led Toronto with 23 points.

The Suns barely bettered their season low for points – 72 against Miami.

At least Toronto is a better team than the Heat.

Phoenix played pretty good defense until breaking down in the fourth quarter.

But the Suns were unable to solve Toronto’s switching defense, intended to keep Marbury out of the paint.

Normally, that would leave a Phoenix big man on a smaller defender and Marbury on a bigger defender.

The Suns have to rely on small lineups without the injured Amare Stoudemire and have virtually no post-up game.

The Raptors switched off on the Suns’ bread-and-butter play, the pick and roll, sagged off and dared Marbury to beat them from the outside.

“I thought our big guys did a good job on containing (Marbury) after some pick and rolls and took him out of their action,” said Raptors coach Kevin O’Neill, a former University of Arizona assistant coach. “It forced him to take jump shots, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

Marbury made five of 17 shots. And nobody picked up the slack.

Clippers 101, Lakers 98: At Los Angeles, the short-handed Lakers didn’t have quite enough to beat the Clippers despite 44 points and 10 rebounds by Kobe Bryant, season highs.

Elton Brand had 30 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and five blocked shots to lead the Clippers to the win, their third in the last 26 games between the crosstown rivals.

The Lakers played without Shaquille O’Neal, who strained his right calf Friday night in a 111-109 loss at Seattle and is listed as day to day.

In addition, the Lakers Karl Malone was placed on the injured list for the first time in his 19-year career.

Malone hasn’t played since spraining a ligament in his right knee Dec. 21 in the Lakers’ 107-101 victory over Phoenix.

Bucks 100, Wizards 94: At Washington, Michael Redd had 18 of his 27 points in the second half to lead Milwaukee over Washington.

Tim Thomas added 23 points for the Bucks, who followed Friday’s big home win over Dallas by breaking a three-game road losing streak.

Ex-Arizona Wildcat Gilbert Arenas, who didn’t start, scored 18 for the Wizards but was called for a technical for arguing a foul call with one minute to play, costing Washington a vital point.

Nets 95, Knicks 85: At New York, Jason Kidd dominated the fourth quarter, getting 19 of his season-high 35 points and engineering a 17-2 run.

Dikembe Mutombo tied a Knicks record with 10 blocked shots. New Jersey won its fourth straight and for the 12th time in 15 games.

Kings 130, SuperSonics 99: At Sacramento, Calif., Peja Stojakovic hit six three-pointers among his 24 points for the Kings, and Bobby Jackson had 21 points and seven assists.

Brad Miller had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings, who improved the NBA’s best record to 23-8 with the blowout win. The Sonics’ three-game winning streak was snapped by the Kings’ third straight victory.

Tucson ties

How former UA players fared in the NBA yesterday

Yesterday Season averages

Player, team Vs. Pts. Reb. Ast. Pts. Reb. Ast

Gilbert Arenas, Wizards Bucks (L) 18 3 3 18.9 4.9 5.1

Mike Bibby, Kings Sonics (W) 13 2 6 17.1 3.4 5.5

Richard Jefferson, Nets Knicks (W) 15 3 3 16.5 5.7 3.5

Chris Mills, Celtics Injured – - – 0.0 0.0 0.0

Sean Rooks, Hornets No game – - – 2.6 1.6 0.3

D. Stoudamire, Blazers No game – - – 12.6 3.5 6.0

Jason Terry, Hawks No game – - – 16.4 4.1 4.9

Luke Walton, Lakers No game – - – 1.8 0.7 0.8

Loren Woods, Heat No game – - – 3.1 3.3 0.2

PHOTO CAPTION: The Associated Press

Phoenix’s Casey Jacobsen (left) picks up a charging foul when he collides with Toronto’s Michael Curry during the Suns’ 83-73 loss.

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