I was a few weeks shy of my first birthday the last time the Bucks won in Phoenix. I don't remember that game.
If you wanted to know precisely what a team on a 21-game losing streak in a city looks like, and apparently I did, then all you needed to do was watch the first quarter of the Bucks in Phoenix.
The Suns singed Milwaukee with a 36-15 first quarter. The Bucks brought out the best in Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Jason Richardson all at once, they were on pace to lose by 84, and with the relatively late start and everything happening within the context of a pretty rotten day, I am guessing more than a few people tuned this game out.
Hopefully you resisted, because what followed was three of the more inspiring quarters of road basketball the team has played this season. Hakim Warrick continued a joyous 2010 with 14 second quarter points as the Bucks turned a 21-point laugher into a 12-point halftime game. The third quarter was even better as Milwaukee flew down the floor for 34 points as Brandon Jennings and Charlie Bell combined for five threes.
Then it was Luke Ridnour's turn in the fourth quarter, as Milwaukee's guards took turns from deep, perhaps a nod to Mike Redd, unfairly stuck on 999 career three-pointers wearing these colors. The Bucks appeared primed to complete the comeback after Jennings nailed a three to pull them within 98-96 and then stole the ball, penetrated, and found an open Andrew Bogut for an easy layup with just over a minute to go.
But nothing is easy when you have lost 21 in a row in the same city.
And I'll remember this game.
Hakim Warrick. Hak' was in such a second quarter groove that I was legitimately surprised when his three-point attempt at the buzzer to end the first half didn't go in.
Warrick checked in with a couple minutes to go in the first quarter, mostly blending into what appeared to be an epic blowout. But just like the night before in LA, Hakim helped lead the Bucks back into the game. On this night he poured in 14 second-quarter points. Jumpers, free throws, dunks -- a real array of hoops.
And unlike against LA, he left a little something for the second half. Warrick maintained his aggressiveness throughout, bagging 21 points and 10 boards while making 5-6 free throws and finishing with a team-best +9 differential.
Luke Ridnour. Just when you thought the shooting magic was wearing off Luke's fingertips.
Exactly one month after we asked how long Frodo's hot streak could last, Ridnour shot 6-13 from the field, 2-3 from outside, and 3-4 at the line. Not his best shooting line of the season by any means, but some how, some way, he is still hovering around a Nashian .500 / .400 / .900.
Ridnour slung in seven straight points early in the fourth on a pair of deep jumpers and a three to give the Bucks their first lead of the game at 86-85.
Kurt Thomas. As Bogut started 1-7 from the field, Thomas gave the Bucks a lift off the bench by hitting a couple of those standstill jumpers and defending in the paint.
55. The thinned-out Bucks got 55 bench points in the first game since losing Mike Redd. Warrick (21) and Ridnour (17) led the way, but Delfino (9) and Thomas (8) also chipped in. Phoenix finished with 19 bench points.
24. An easy one. Milwaukee came all the way back from 24 points down in the first half to momentarily take a fourth quarter lead.
7. Steve Nash was most excellent with 30 points on 12-18 shooting along with 11 assists. Made half of his threes (2-4) and all of his free throws (4-4), living up to his sharpshooting reputation. But he did tie a season-high with seven turnovers. Meanwhile, Jennings and Ridnour combined for two turnovers in 64 minutes.
Comeback. Ridnour/Meeks/Delfino/Warrick/Thomas. That was the lineup head-coach-for-a-night Jim Boylan trotted out to start the second quarter down 21 points. Not much there to suggest the Bucks would shave nine points off that deficit at the time. You knew that Milwaukee would have to find offense in new places with Redd out and Bogut/Jennings inconsistent.
And that they did, as Warrick, Thomas, Mbah a Moute, and Ridnour combined to score all of the second period points to give halftime hope.
Milwaukee built on that halftime hope as eight different players scored in a 34-point third quarter. That is what it takes.
The Suns have a bit of history blowing leads this season. They play fast, and they don't play much defense. But Milwaukee is also more prone to giving up big leads that coming back, and this really impressed, particularly given the timing.
Balance. I'm not really sure what Ilyasova accomplished, but for the most part this was a story of everyone coming together through great adversity, great odds, and a great deficit. Even Carlos Delfino sort of, kind of ingratiated himself somewhat with that late three.
Something to build on, and reminiscent of some of the early-season close losses sans Redd.
Haktastic. Good timing for Warrick to get hot as it's coinciding with Ilyasova's unfortunate decline. I still don't know about his awkward jumpers that fall, but he is working it right now.
Pregame. First came the bad news that Michael Redd will miss the rest of the season. And then before tip-off we received word that Scott Skiles was taken to a local hospital due to an irregular heartbeat. Skiles is reportedly fine, but still. Between the oft-injured star and then the coach going down, let's stop the madness here before things get all Portlandian with the ill fortunes.
Firstly. And it got even worse once the game started.
Time for the Bucks to set their PST watches. One night after sleepwalking through a 24-8 first quarter doozy in Los Angeles, Milwaukee outdid themselves. The Suns burst to a 9-0 lead and this time the Bucks trailed 36-15 after the first quarter. Can't afford to dig holes that deep, that early at home against poor teams -- much less on the road against very good clubs.
Finish. I hate to single out one play, but not as much as I hated to watch this play.
Jennings had just snapped a three to pull the Bucks within two points at 98-96. Then Jennings stole Nash's pass, carved through the Phoenix defense to spring open Bogut with nothing but the open hoop in front of him. On a finish that won't make his All-Star campaign video reel, Bogut came up woefully short on an open layup attempt that would have tied the game. Nash came down and sunk a jumper on the next play and the Suns were back in control.
And there you have it, from early in the day to late at night: this, Alexander's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I feel better now.