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Bucks earn first win at Phoenix since 1987

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- In February 1987, gas was 93 cents a gallon, Bon Jovi was on top of the charts with "Livin' on a Prayer," and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns in a basketball game in Arizona.

Not much chance of gas or Bon Jovi reaching such lows or highs again. But after 24 futile attempts in the desert, the Bucks finally came out on top.

Monta Ellis scored 24 points, and Larry Sanders added a career-high 19 points and 15 rebounds as the Bucks beat the hapless Suns 98-94 Thursday.

The win was Milwaukee's first in US Airways Center in 20 tries and its first in Phoenix since Feb. 21, 1987 -- when Sidney Moncrief, Jack Sikma and the Bucks beat the Suns at old Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Coach Jim Boylan said he didn't talk to the team about the streak before the game, but he hung an old mimeograph copy of the 1987 box score -- with the final stats written in by hand -- on the board to celebrate afterward.

"We've tried talking about the streak here in the past and it never seemed to work, so I took to opposite tack," Boylan said. "Afterward, we threw the old box score up, and a lot of these guys (six) weren't even born yet when that game was played. It was pretty cool."

Mike Dunleavy had 16 points, including the clinching 3-pointer with 57.4 seconds left that gave the Bucks a 94-86 lead and finished off their rally from a 10-point second-half deficit. The win was especially sweet for Dunleavy, who grew up in Milwaukee while his father, Mike Sr., was one of nine Bucks coaches to come up empty between Don Nelson in 1987 and Boylan in his sixth game as coach.

"I saw my dad the other day, and he couldn't believe this streak," Dunleavy said. "Dad said, 'Come on, that's not true! And I said, 'It's absolutely true. Look it up.'

"It's an amazing record of futility, you can't fathom it. So (for Boylan) to come here for the first time as a Buck and help us get off the schneid, it's pretty special. I guess we should have brought Jim in earlier."

Dunleavy and Ellis were teammates in Golden State for two years (2005-06 and '06-07) during the longest continuing road drought in the NBA. The Warriors have lost 27 straight in San Antonio dating back to 1997.

"That one's still going, right? I was a part of a lot of those losses," said Dunleavy, who started his career with five years in Golden State. "The intraconference streaks are different, you play two times a year. This one, you only get one crack, and then it's another whole year."

Shannon Brown had 20 points off the bench and Luis Scola added 16 for the Suns, who have lost 13 of their past 15 games and 20 of the last 26. Even a game that has been penciled in as a win since the Reagan administration is no sure thing anymore.

"We got the game to the point where we should have won," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. "You are up 10 and you are at home, you've got to find a way to win the game. That's been the story of the whole season: We have not been able to do it."

From the start, the Bucks looked as if they finally had the answer to the curse against the struggling Suns. Brandon Jennings and Ellis combined for 18 first-quarter points, and Dunleavy's 3-pointer gave Milwaukee a 43-31 lead in the second quarter.

But Phoenix regrouped, finished the first half with a 15-5 rush and scored the first seven points of third quarter. The Suns took a 63-53 lead on P.J. Tucker's 3-pointer with 8:27 left in the third.

Down 80-72 with 9:38 left in the game, the Bucks turned two of Phoenix's 18 turnovers into points, and Dunleavy tied the game at 80 on a 3-pointer with 8:08 to go. Down the stretch, Milwaukee made all the big plays on both ends.

"We don't have to talk about the streak anymore, and that's great with me," Sanders said. "And they can throw away that old box score they filled in with pencil. That's all done."

NOTES: Phoenix guard Jared Dudley returned to the lineup, starting in place of Brown, after missing two games with a strained right wrist. Dudley finished with 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. ... John Lucas had 24 points, Paul Pierce 22 and Terry Cummings 17 in the last Milwaukee win in Arizona. ... Nine Milwaukee coaches (Del Harris, Frank Hamblen, Dunleavy, Chris Ford, George Karl, Terry Stotts, Larry Krystkowiak and two former Suns head coaches -- Terry Porter and Scott Skiles) tried and failed since Nelson won in Phoenix. ... Jennings had 29 points in the Bucks' 108-99 win over the Suns in Milwaukee nine days ago. Jennings had 30 points total in his first four games against Phoenix. ... Sanders entered the night leading the NBA in blocks (3.22 per game). He'd blocked at least five shots in a game eight times. He had two Thursday, one of them a key play against Phoenix's Marcin Gortat with 1:39 left.
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