Cold-shooting Bucks lose 23rd straight in Phoenix
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) -- Even at full strength, the Milwaukee Bucks don't win in Phoenix. Short-handed, they really had no shot.
Marcin Gortat had 19 points and 11 rebounds and the Suns beat icy Milwaukee 92-77 on Wednesday night for the Bucks' 23rd consecutive loss in Phoenix.
The Bucks, with Andrew Bogut a game-time scratch because of a bruised knee and Drew Gooden out four to six weeks for foot surgery, shot a season-low 31 percent and had to heat up in the fourth quarter to get the number that high.
Milwaukee trailed 52-31 at the half and was down by as many as 25 in the third quarter. Trailing 71-53 after three, the Bucks started the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run to cut it to 74-65 but got no closer.
"It was a very humbling game," Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. "Obviously we were short-handed but we didn't have a ton of energy and we didn't have great focus. We looked like mummies in the first half a little bit the way we were walking around out there."
Corey Maggette and Ersan Ilyasova each scored 15 points for the Bucks. Grant Hill scored 16 and Jared Dudley 15 for the Suns. Channing Frye added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Steve Nash had nine points and 13 assists, but a season-high nine turnovers.
Gortat, part of the six-player trade with Orlando in mid-December, topped 16 points for the fourth game in a row. He had reached a career high in each of the previous three games, topped by 25 against New Orleans on Sunday.
"I already said many times, my confidence is pretty big right now," he said. "I have a lot of fun from playing basketball, my mind is really free right now, comparing to the ex-team. It's just fun. Playing with Steve Nash, he's going to always find you. I would say he's 50 percent, at least 50 percent, of the success for me."
Milwaukee's futility streak in Phoenix is the second-worst active skid in the NBA, behind Golden State's 25 straight losses in San Antonio. Since the Warriors and Spurs play more often, the Bucks' streak is much longer chronologically. Milwaukee last won in Phoenix on Feb. 21, 1987.
The Bucks shot 24 percent in the first half (11 of 45). Their 31 points matched their second low for a half and was a season low for a Phoenix opponent.
The Suns, winners of three in a row and eight of 11, never trailed. Milwaukee made 4 of 20 shots in the second quarter to allow Phoenix to build its 21-point lead at the break. Frye's 3-pointer started a 6-0 spurt that gave the Suns their biggest lead at 62-37 with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
Coach Alvin Gentry had to put Nash and his other starters back in after Maggette's 15-footer cut the lead to 74-65 with 8:32 to play.
Milwaukee got it to single digits once more when Earl Boykins' 13-footer made it 76-67 with 7 minutes left. But Hill scored four straight and Nash curled in for a finger-roll layup to put the Suns back in control.
The Phoenix franchise record for an opponent's field goal percentage, 26.3 percent by Denver on April 1, 2003, seemed to be within reach when the Bucks were at 27.1 percent (19 of 70) through three quarters. But Milwaukee "warmed up" to 9 of 20 in the final quarter.
"We just haven't been a good shooting team in the league the entire season," Boykins said. "We're last in the league in field goal percentage and tonight we came out and didn't make shots. We shoot 31 percent, how do you win a basketball game shooting that way?"
Notes: Three of the players who played in the game -- Robin Lopez, Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova -- were not born the last time the Bucks won in Phoenix. ... The Suns' record for consecutive home wins against a single opponent is 24 against Sacramento from 1988 to 1998. ... Bogut was hurt in the fourth quarter of Monday night's loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Updated February 2, 2011