Posted: Feb. 1, 2011
The Phoenix Suns lost a third straight game upon returning from a five-game road trip, but they've recovered with impressive victories over two of the league's hottest teams.
They should feel awfully confident about stretching their streak to three.
The Suns have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks 22 straight times in Phoenix, an astounding streak they might not have trouble extending Wednesday night if Bucks center Andrew Bogut can't play.
Phoenix (22-24) seemed frustrated after losing 114-107 to Charlotte in its first game back home last Wednesday, with coach Alvin Gentry lamenting his team's inability to finish games and Vince Carter calling the three-game skid "painful."
The Suns couldn't have picked a better time to bounce back. They held Boston to 34.2 percent shooting in an 88-71 win Friday, then handed New Orleans its second loss in 12 games with a 104-102 victory Sunday.
"We're starting to play better, we're starting to defend a little bit better," said Grant Hill, who had 16 points Sunday after averaging just 8.6 in his previous five games. "I think most importantly, we have belief in each other, especially these last two games."
The emergence of Marcin Gortat has certainly helped. Gortat chipped in occasionally but was hardly dominant in his first 12 games with the Suns after coming over from Orlando, but he has five double-doubles in his last seven games.
He had a then career-high 19 points and 17 boards against the Celtics, then surpassed that with 25 points and 11 rebounds in the win over New Orleans.
"(Gortat's) playing great," said Steve Nash, averaging 12.6 assists in Phoenix's last 10 games. "He's picking and rolling and catching and finishing, and I try to make it as easy for him as I can. He's improving every day. I think he's getting more confident and more comfortable getting so many reps, so many opportunities."
The Suns' 7-3 record since Feb. 12 is impressive, but it shouldn't take much to intimidate Milwaukee. The Bucks (19-27) haven't won in Phoenix since Feb. 21, 1987, surrendering an average of 113.7 points.
Their last visit was as close as they've come to ending their drought. Milwaukee fell behind 36-15 after one quarter but nearly came all the way back before losing 105-101.
The Bucks were feeling good about themselves when Brandon Jennings returned from a broken foot in Saturday's win over New Jersey, but just one game later that enthusiasm may have been dampened. Bogut left in the fourth quarter of Monday's 105-98 loss to the Clippers with a right knee injury after colliding with Los Angeles guard Randy Foye.
Though X-rays were negative, Bogut will have an MRI before his status is determined for Wednesday.
John Salmons, meanwhile, has missed eight straight games with a hip injury. He worked out before Saturday's game but didn't play Monday.
Corey Maggette has stepped up his scoring in Salmons' absence, averaging 22.5 points in his last four games. He averaged 24.3 points - shooting 60.0 percent - in his last three contests against the Suns with Golden State last season.
Nash, meanwhile, has looked to score often recently versus Milwaukee. He's averaged 24.5 points and shot 62.2 percent in his last six games in the series
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