Bargnani returns as Raptors end losing skid against Suns

Bargnani returns as Raptors end losing skid against Suns

PHOENIX - The Associated Press
Bargnani returns as Raptors end losing skid against Suns

Toronto Raptors’ Italian forward Andrea Bargnani (C) gets fouled by Phoenix Suns point guard Sebastian Telfair (R) as he drives to the basket during an NBA game. REUTERS photo

Italian forward Andrea Bargnani’s return provided the Toronto Raptors with the lift to end two losing streaks - one that had lasted two weeks, the other eight years.

Bargnani, absent for six games with a left calf strain, scored 27 of his 36 points in the second half, as the Toronto Raptors snapped an eight-game losing streak by beating Phoenix 99-96 in the NBA on Jan. 24, their first win over the Suns in eight years.

The Raptors had lost 14 in a row to Phoenix since 2004.

“Andrea coming back makes everything easier for everbody else,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “He opens up the lane for L.B. (Leandro Barbosa) for layups, James (Johnson) to get in the lane and get offensive boards. He is kind of the hub for everybody to play off.” Bargnani scored 18 in the third, one shy of his NBA career best for a quarter, making 4 of 5 3-pointers.

“I didn’t do anything different from the first quarter because I was pretty aggressive in the first quarter too, I just didn’t score,” he said. “Jose (Calderon) told me to shoot from the outside because I was just driving the ball and everybody was waiting for me. They found me open and they went in. It was all good.” Phoenix star Steve Nash said Bargnani was especially effective when the 3s start to fall for him.

“It really stretches the floor and that makes him a terrific driver because you have to get out to him so quickly,” Nash said. “He was just too much for us.”