Bucks snap 24 game losing streak in Phoenix as Sanders big night tops the Suns
PHOENIX — Milwaukee Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan never said a word to his team about the franchise’s 24-game losing streak in Phoenix.
He’ll also never have to mention it again.
Mike Dunleavy hit a 3-pointer with 57.4 seconds left to cap a 10-0 run and the Bucks pulled away to beat the Suns 98-94 on Thursday night, snapping a 26-year drought in the desert.
“It wasn’t like they didn’t know about it,” Boylan said. “In years past we tried that (talking about it) a couple of times and it didn’t seem to work, so I took the opposite tack and figured I would not say a word about it.
“I did have the box score from the last year so we were able to throw it up there after the game and celebrate. To look at the old boxscore was interesting for them to see.”
Monta Ellis scored 24 points and Larry Sanders added a career-high 19, while Dunleavy and Brandon Jennings had 16 apiece for the Bucks, who had not won in the Valley since Feb. 21, 1987, at the old Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“I knew about it because we talked about it last year before the game but I was hoping we wouldn’t talk about it this year, which we didn’t,” Sanders said. “I don’t like to bring up the past. It’s too much pressure. But I was happy we came out and broke that streak.”
Milwaukee has won four of six since Boylan replaced Scott Skiles on Jan. 8.
“Lately we haven’t been playing a great overall game but we hung in there and we were able to play well in the fourth quarter down the stretch,” Dunleavy said.
Sanders also had a game-high 15 rebounds and blocked two shots, giving him at least one blocked shot in 25 straight games, the second-longest active streak in the NBA.
“The fourth quarter is really important,” Sanders said. “You have to play D and at that point it’s about possessions. Whichever team gets the most stops is going to win the game.”
Shannon Brown scored 20 points off the bench and Luis Scola added 16 for the Suns, who have lost four straight at home for the first time since 2004. Phoenix has dropped 13 of 15 overall.
“We can’t let them get shots, loose balls, kick out for 3s and all that,” Brown said. “We can’t let this discourage us. We’ve just got to keep playing hard and it’s all going to come together.”
Markieff Morris’ driving layup with 3:41 remaining gave the Suns an 86-84 lead.
Ellis tied the game on a 20-foot jumper and, after Morris bounced a dunk attempt off the rim, Sanders scored on a pick-and-roll to give the Bucks the lead for good, 88-86, with 2:35 left.
Jennings added a free throw, then stopped on a fast break 10 feet from the basket and scooped the ball in with a finger roll ahead of Dunleavy’s 3-pointer for a 94-86 lead.
“You want to take those shots,” Dunleavy said. “You want to take them and make them. At that point I think it was eight points and only less than a minute left. Not enough possessions in the game for them to come back unless we completely fall apart.”
Milwaukee took a 12-point lead on a 3 by Dunleavy with 6:44 left in the first half, but Brown scored nine points to spark a 15-5 run as the Suns tied it at 48 on their way to a 56-53 lead.
Phoenix continued to roll at the start of the second half, scoring the first seven points to extend their scoring run to 13-0 over a span of 4 minutes across the second and third periods, and led 63-53 on P.J. Tucker’s 3-pointer with 8:27 left in the third.
Another 3 by Dunleavy tied it at 80 with 8:25 to play.
“You have to be able to make plays down the stretch to win games, especially close games,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “They made them and we didn’t. We got the ball right at the basket and we couldn’t get it in.”
The Suns’ troubles in the fourth quarter largely were self-inflicted.
Phoenix committed six of its 18 turnovers in the fourth, leading to nine of Milwaukee’s 28 points in the final period. The Suns shot 29.2 percent in the quarter (7 of 24) and 31.9 percent for the second half.
“It’s tough,” Goran Dragic said. “It’s different players than in the past for the Suns. In the past, four players spread the floor and one big guy rolls or plays the low post and, creating from there, you have more spacing. With this team we don’t have this.
“In the past, we were a running team. We ran a lot and scored some easy layups. We don’t do that anymore.”
One game after logging more than 40 minutes, Suns big man Marcin Gortat was limited by early foul trouble to seven points and five rebounds over 29 minutes. … Suns swingman Jared Dudley returned from a two-game absence with a sore wrist and had 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. … Dunleavy added three of the Bucks’ 11 blocked shots. … Jennings has scored 53 points in his past two games against Phoenix after scoring 30 in his first four appearances against the Suns. … Thirteen of the 30 players on the two rosters had not yet been born when the Bucks won 115-107 in Phoenix 26 years ago. The longest current such streak is San Antonio’s 27-game winning streak against Golden State.