104 - 96 Final
  for this game

Shaq helps Suns flatten shorthanded Bucks

Nov 9, 2008 - 4:55 AM By NIck Berenz PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Coming off a disappointing loss, the Phoenix Suns welcomed a refreshed Shaquille O'Neal back to the lineup for Saturday's 104-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

O'Neal scored a season-high 29 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and Amare Stoudemire chipped in with 24 points to lead the Suns to their fifth consecutive win over the Bucks.

The 36-year-old center looked dominant from the start after being given a scheduled night of rest in Friday's 100-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. He had 13 points and seven rebounds in the first half to lead the Suns to a 52-42 lead at the break.

"I felt fresh, and it worked out well," O'Neal said. "Coach kept calling my play, and I tried to make them bring the double, but they weren't doubling."

The Suns' big men had their way in the paint in the first half - primarily against the Bucks' reserves.

After playing the first 5:34 of the game, Andrew Bogut spent the remainder of the half on the bench. Bogut averaged 24.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in a pair of meetings last season against the Suns. He finished with just five points on 1-of-7 shooting Saturday.

"I really liked the way we came out and set the tone early," Suns head coach Terry Porter said. "We had a lot of solid performances."

With the team's leading scorer, Michael Redd, out for the third consecutive game with a sprained ankle, the Bucks struggled to find offense until the start of the fourth quarter.

Milwaukee charged back at the open of the final quarter behind a 13-5 run from backups Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Joe Alexander and Ramon Sessions, who brought their team to within one point with 7:25 remaining. The trio scored the Bucks' first 19 points of the final quarter, and Sessions finished with 23 for the game.

"If you're digging yourself that kind of hole early, you really have to play perfect to get back in it," Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said. "We had a hard time finding five guys to play together on both ends of the floor."

But the Suns went on a 12-2 run that started with O'Neal's hook with 7:10 remaining and was capped with a free throw with 3:09 left to give the Suns a 93-82 edge.

"This is the first time in my career I've played with a post player," said Suns All-Star point guard Steve Nash, who finished with 16 points and seven assists. "Our offense is focused around him (O'Neal) and, if you have a big fella who can score, you have to go to it."

Both head coaches have history with the opposing sideline. Porter and Skiles started their careers as the head man for the Bucks and Suns, respectively.