If the Milwaukee Bucks were ever going to snap their nearly two-decade-long Arizona curse, Friday was the night. Not only was the prolific Michael Redd doing his usual tap-dance on the Suns defense, but he had a red-hot tag-team partner in Mo Williams.
Phoenix scored at will but couldn’t get away, lost Amaré Stoudemire to fouls with 3:09 remaining and didn’t score a single basket over the final 4:40 of play.
But Shawn Marion’s 27 points — 11 coming on fourth-quarter free throws — topped four Suns who hit the 20-point mark and Phoenix had enough to hand the Bucks their 19th straight loss in Arizona, 122-116, and run their winning streak to six games in the process. Marion added 14 rebounds, four steals and three of Phoenix’s 10 blocked shots.
“Their record (5-10) doesn’t show it, but they are pretty good,” said Marion, who overcame a 1-for-7 shooting start to finish strong. “Redd is a handful. But if you score all those points and you don’t win, then it doesn’t matter.
Marion tried hard to keep up with Redd, but he backed up his 45-point explosion in Los Angeles Tuesday with 37 more, hitting 12 of 15 shots in the first three quarters. But he was limited to seven points — all free throws — in the fourth quarter.
Williams added 31, as Milwaukee’s backcourt combined to hit 27 of 42 shots and shatter what had been a decent defensive run at home for the Suns.
But Steve Nash matched Marion with 27 points — including 10 straight in a key span early in the fourth quarter when the Suns reeled in a seven-point Bucks lead. Stoudemire had 22 points, 11 rebounds and looked dominating at times for the fourth straight game while Leandro Barbosa collected 20 of the bench’s 24 points.
The Suns haven’t had four 20-point scorers in a game since Nash, Marion, Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson turned the trick Feb. 13, 2005 at Golden State. But that’s what it took to send the Bucks home empty-handed.
The Suns scored a season-high 62 points in the first half — at home — and went off trailing by two points.
“We’re really finding our offensive stride, but we have to find a defensive identity,” said guard Raja Bell, who came up just short of joining the 20-point club with 18.
“You combine those two, and we’re gonna be (darn) good, very dangerous. Right now we’re not there defensively. That has to become the priority.
“They had two guys that were scorching out there, no doubt. But there was a lot of stuff out there that we could have cleaned up. When it’s all said and done, you have to get stops.”
The Suns did turn it up at the end, holding the Bucks to two field goals in the final five minutes.
“If you’re not going to ‘d-up’ all night, you’d better be able to do it when it counts,” Bell said with a smile.
BEAST AGAINST EAST
Now 3-0 against the Eastern Conference teams this season, the Suns are 30-3 against the East at home since the beginning of the 2004-05 season. Friday’s win allowed the Suns to leap over Sacramento, a loser in Dallas, and into second place in the Pacific Division — a game behind the Lakers. And with an East Coast road trip coming up against teams with pedestrian records, Phoenix has a chance to continue its recent surge.
THE BEST MAN?
Boris Diaw had a little advance notice before the worldwide news broke that Spurs guard Tony Parker and actress Eva Longoria were engaged. Diaw and Parker are close friends and Parker told him a week ago what was coming.
“A few weeks ago, he told me, ‘Don’t be surprised if you hear something soon,’ ” Diaw said. “I knew he was going to surprise her. But he had to wait for the right time. It’s a pretty big deal.”
On his way home from practice this week, Parker called Diaw with the news. Diaw will be at the union, which is set for July in France, and will likely be part of the wedding party.
“Best man? I don’t know. I think he’s going to have a lot of best men,” Diaw said. “I’m very happy for him, for both of them.”
Bell had a 3-pointer waved off by a Leandro Barbosa offensive foul with 2:14 left. It denied the Suns a chance to have five 20-point scorers in the same game for the first time since Nov. 10, 1990, when the Suns scored a franchise-record 173 points against Denver. Phoenix Mercury coach Paul Westhead was coaching the Nuggets at the time. . . .
Redd, third in the league in scoring at 30.8 points per game, has 102 points in his last three games against the Suns (34.0 a game). His 37 points was the most by a Suns opponent this year.