The Milwaukee Bucks finally accomplished something they hadn't done since 1987: they won a game in Phoenix.
For reference, what the Bucks accomplished tonight--beating the Suns in Phoenix--hadn't happened in my lifetime. Whether that makes the streak seem shockingly long or me seem frightfully young, it doesn't matter. All that matters is the Bucks walked out of the US Airways Center (which didn't even exist the last time the Bucks won in Arizona) with a victory tonight.
They just wouldn't be the Bucks if they didn't make it difficult, though. After a solid first quarter in which Milwaukee built a 10-point lead, the Bucks seemed to lose all of their energy and focus, letting the Suns turn that deficit into a three-point lead at the half. Neither team showed much interest in anything resembling organized, deliberate basketball during the third quarter, but at least Milwaukee's defense returned to the court.
This was especially true for Larry Sanders, who had a terrific game with 19 points, 15 rebounds, 2 official blocks--plus a couple more rejections that seemingly evaded the eyes of the Suns' scorekeepers. Sanders' first block proved timely as it came on Marcin Gortat with just 1:45 remaining, extending his streak of consecutive games with at least one blocked shot to 25, and he followed it up shortly thereafter by spiking a Shannon Brown offering into the stands. After dropping a tidy 14/12 double-double last week in Milwaukee, Gortat was held in check by Sanders and company tonight (7 pts, 3/10 fg, 5 rebs), as the Bucks also won the battle of the boards 51-44. Milwaukee also got an efficient 16 points from Mike Dunleavy, 16 from Brandon Jennings (13 in the first half), and a game-high 24 from Monta Ellis, 10 of which came in the final quarter.
The Suns were led by 20 points off the bench from the ever-explosive Shannon Brown and 16 from the not-so-explosive Luis Scola. Phoenix was aided by a number of Milwaukee turnovers (5 each for Jennings and Ellis), the majority of which seemed to quickly lead to dunks. The Suns erased much of their early deficit at the line, where they were 17-21 in the first half alone. But Milwaukee was able to drastically reduce their fouling after the break, sending the Suns to the line only eight more times while using their now-familiar shot-swatting frontline to trigger their own transition attack.
The Bucks will try to finish their road trip 3-1 when they take on Portland on Saturday. The Suns are off until next Wednesday when they head to Sacramento.