Nash, who hails from Victoria, British Columbia, is the two-time NBA MVP and was recently awarded his second consecutive Lionel Conacher Award, given to Canada’s top male athlete.
The point guard is also making a case for his third consecutive MVP award this season, leading the league with 11.4 assists per game. He is second on the team in scoring at 20.2 points for the Suns (22-8), but the 11-year veteran is still searching for his first NBA title.
“To me, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “Two MVPs puts you in the Hall of Fame. Forget the conference finals, two MVPs of the league? And all the other stuff?
“Now, the question is, if he wins another one, where do you place him among the greatest point guards of all time? If he wins three MVPs at the point guard position, I’m thinking in the top three.”
Nash’s superb play has propelled the Suns to 19 wins in their last 21 games, highlighted by a franchise-record 15-game winning streak from Nov. 20-Dec. 19. The All-Star has totaled 46 points and 25 assists over the last two games, leading Phoenix to road victories over two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference in Detroit and Chicago.
Nash had 13 assists Tuesday against the Bulls, but it was his pick on Ben Gordon that created space for Leandro Barbosa to make a game-winning 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to give Phoenix a 97-96 victory.
“He (Gordon) went under the pick, so I had space to jump and shoot,” Barbosa said.
The success in Chicago came two days after a 108-101 win at Detroit where Nash had 35 points and 12 assists.
“I’m just waiting for him to retire so we don’t have to worry about it anymore,” Mitchell said. “The good thing is we only have to see him two times a year. Playing him four times a year has got to be a headache, man.”
Nash has helped Phoenix to five consecutive wins over Toronto, and he has averaged 18.8 points and 11.7 assists in his last six games against the Raptors.
Toronto (13-17) looks to spoil Nash’s visit to Canada as forward-center Chris Bosh is expected to return after missing 12 games with an injured left knee. Bosh, who averages a team-high 20.5 points and 12.2 rebounds, suffered the injury in a loss at Chicago on Dec. 8.
Joey Graham started 11 games in Bosh’s place, averaging 7.9 points and 3.9 rebounds.
Despite Bosh’s possible return, the Raptors are expected to be without T.J. Ford due to an ankle injury suffered Friday in a 107-97 loss to Chicago. Ford, in his first season with the Raptors, is averaging a career-high 16.0 points and 8.1 assists.
Jose Calderon had 13 points and three assists in Ford’s place in Toronto’s 110-104 loss at Memphis on Saturday.
“It’s tough,” Raptors swingman Morris Peterson said. “In this league, you never know who you’re going to have to play with or how many soldiers you’re going to have. You can’t use that as an excuse.”
The Raptors, who are 8-4 at home, have not beaten the Suns since a 101-94 win at Phoenix on Feb. 10, 2004.