PHOENIX — The Suns are in a bad place right now, contemplating rotation changes geared more toward player development than winning in the not-so-distant future. The Bucks, meanwhile, are a playoff team in the East, and fought like it on Thursday to overcome an eight-point fourth quarter deficit on the way to a 98-94 victory.
The win broke a crazy streak for Milwaukee, who hadn’t won in Phoenix since Feb. 21, 1987. The Suns had won 24 straight home games against this opponent since then, and the Bucks had yet to win a game at the US Airways Center, going 0-19 before this one since the building opened its doors for the 1992-93 season.
Bucks head coach Jim Boylan said he chose not to even mention the streak to his team before the game got started.
“We actually did not discuss it at all,” Boylan said. “The players knew about it. They were aware of it, so it wasn’t something they didn’t know. Everybody knew about it.
“In years past, we’ve tried that a couple times, and said ‘hey guys, it’s been 20-some-odd years since we’ve won here,’ but it’s never seemed to work,” he continued. “So I took the opposite track, and figured I’m not going to say a word about it. But I did have the box score [from that last win] and we were able to throw that up there after the game to kind of celebrate.”
A comeback win on the road is always worth celebrating, no matter the opponent. On this night, Milwaukee got a 10-point fourth quarter from Monta Ellis, who finished with a game-high 24 points on 10-20 shooting, to go along with four rebounds and six assists.
Ellis didn’t miss a field goal or a free throw in his nine and a half fourth quarter minutes, and that, along with a key defensive stretch late where the Bucks blocked three consecutive Suns’ shots with under 2:35 to play while clinging to a two-point lead was the difference.
For the Suns, the way this game played out was all too familiar. The team has put together spurts of solid basketball in many of its losses, including tonight when they used a 25-10 run in the last 6:35 of the second quarter to turn a 12-point deficit into a three-point lead at the break. But in the end, too many turnovers and not enough playmakers doomed their chances.
‘You’ve got to be able to make plays down the stretch to win games,” a dejected Alvin Gentry said afterward. “We got the game to the point where we should have won it. When you’re up 10 and you’re at home, you’ve got to find a way to win the game. That’s been the story of our season and we haven’t been able to do it.”