Call it 20 — the hard way. It wasn’t exactly a textbook example of the mastery the Suns have held over Milwaukee here for two decades, since the Suns needed season highs from both Steve Nash (35 points) and Boris Diaw (21) Saturday night to hold on for a 122-114 win and for their 20th straight win over the Bucks in Phoenix.
Phoenix again looked lost on defense — particularly the pick-and-roll — while allowing 68 first-half points and making Andrew Bogut (career-high 29 points, 11 rebounds) look like a superstar inside. But when you think back just one week, when the Suns lost a shootout to New Orleans to begin the most tumultuous week of what has been a curious season, going home a winner in any form doesn’t seem so bad.
“Milwaukee is dangerous because they score all kinds of ways,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “If you pause at all, they are going to keep scoring. You just have to match them and finally just wear them out by scoring.”
The Suns did that by employing Amaré Stoudemire early (21 of his 31 points in the first half) and Nash late (26 of his 35 in the second half on 13-for-17 shooting). It was the first time the Suns had two 30-point scorers in a regulation game in more than a year (Dec. 31, 2006, vs. Detroit), but every bit was needed.
After spending two days on his back with a case of the flu that required IV bags and plenty of rest to combat, Nash hit five of his seven 3-point attempts and seemed to get stronger as the game went on.
“It didn’t feel great, but someone was smiling on me and a whole bunch of shots were falling,” said Nash, who had topped 30 points four times this season. “I didn’t even know this morning if I was going to be able to play tonight, but it turned out to be decent.”
The Suns also got a lift from Diaw, who bounced back from a very poor game in Utah (five points, two rebounds in 35 minutes) to hit 10 of his 15 shots — almost all of them attacking the basket — while grabbing four of his 11 rebounds on the offensive end. Milwaukee chose to switch on Phoenix’s pick-and-roll, leaving Diaw matched on a guard.
“We need that from Boris,” D’Antoni said. “He has that ability and that’s why we like him. He did great tonight, but we need that constantly.”
The Bucks shot 56 percent from the field and matched the Suns with 11 3-pointers, but Phoenix held them to 18 third-quarter points, which turned out to be the difference.
“We had six turnovers in the third quarter and that really fueled the fire,” Milwaukee coach Larry Krystowiak said. “We ran into three guys who shot about 75 percent between them and a couple of guys with season highs. That’s not good.”