110 - 125 Final
  for this game

Shaq powers Suns over Bucks

Dec 10, 2008 - 7:18 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- For Shaquille O'Neal and the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday was like Retro Night at the US Airways Center. The future Hall of Famer and his fourth NBA team put on the kind of performance that has become a thing of the past - and the Milwaukee Bucks had to pay the price.

Shaq scored a season-high 35 points and the Suns put together their biggest offensive output this campaign with a 125-110 triumph over the Bucks.

For O'Neal, it was his first 30-point showing since March 9, 2007, against the Minnesota Timberwolves when he was still a member of the Miami Heat.

"They keeping feeding like that you can expect that out of me - those kind of numbers," O'Neal said.

For the Suns, it was a return to the kind of explosive offense that had come to define the club over the last four years, but which had remained out of sight for most of the new campaign.

"This shows you what we are capable of doing. We just have to do it consistently," All-Star Amare Stoudemire said. "This was a great step for us offensively and showed great improvement. (Offense) is not a problem."

O'Neal controlled the paint like the Shaq of old - particularly when it mattered most. With the Bucks hanging around in the fourth quarter, the Suns repeatedly went inside to their veteran center and the strategy paid off. He buried a pair of short jumpers and added two free throws in the first three minutes of the frame to extend Phoenix's lead to 104-94.

"If they don't double and I get the touches, (those) are the numbers you can expect from me," O'Neal said. "I just got a lot of shots. When they come to me that is what I am going to do. I have been doing the same thing for 17 years, shooting 59, 60 percent from the field."

Later in the period, he scored six points in a row for the Suns to put the game out of reach at 118-102.

The 36-year-old veteran has been limited to some extent this season, often sitting out one game of a back-to-back as the team tries to preserve him for the long haul. With the Los Angeles Lakers looming on Wednesday and Shaq nursing a sore knee, there was a strong possibility that he wouldn't play against Milwaukee at all.

But he did - and logged 34 minutes, his fourth-most this season. He had not even hit the 30-minute mark in any of his last four appearances.

"Shaq was in a groove tonight and we kept going to to him," Stoudemire said. "That's how it normally is. Whoever is hot that particular night we try to go to them."

The Suns came into the night just a few days removed from a four-game losing streak, garnering national attention for what seemed like a suddenly flat and lethargic offense under new head coach Terry Porter, who has slowed things down and emphasized defense. Phoenix had been scoring points at a reasonable rate, but certainly didn't show the kind of explosiveness it had been accustomed to.

That all changed Tuesday in arguably their most impressive effort of the season, as the Suns won their second game in a row since their four-game skid. The difference between this game and their play for most of the campaign was evident almost from the beginning. O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire established the tone inside from the outset, punishing Milwaukee's frontcourt of Andrew Bogut, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Richard Jefferson.

"That is what everyone envisioned. That is the type of game we came to play," O'Neal said. "When the other team misses, Amare and myself will get the rebound and snap it out and we run, but when the other team scores, we have to come down and I would like to touch it and Amare would like to touch it."

The two big men combined to score the first six points of the ballgame and that opened things up outside, as Raja Bell buried three 3-pointers over the first two quarters and the Suns posted a season-high 74 first-half points.

"(Our defense) was terrible. That is the first word that comes to mind, but it wasn't that good," Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. "We definitely weren't focused on the defensive end. We had a hard time staying with them all over the floor and their big guys obviously hurt us inside."

The Bucks pulled as close as three on Dan Gadzuric's dunk with four seconds left in the third quarter. But Stoudemire responded in unusual fashion, stepping behind the arc and burying a 3-pointer - just his second of the season and 13th of his NBA career - to beat the buzzer.

"We came out a little lackadaisical in the second half and let them back in to it," Porter said. "The guys then regrouped, turned it back up and were able to extend our lead."

Stoudemire collected 22 points and Steve Nash added 19 and 10 assists for Phoenix, which shot 59 percent (44-of-75) from the field.

Charlie Villanueva led the way for Milwaukee, scoring 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting off the bench. Michael Redd added 23 points, Jefferson had 22 and Bogut registered 15 and 11 boards.

"They were making shots and we couldn't get into a rhythm," Villanueva said. "In the first half, we were really careless on the defensive end. I thought we picked it up in the third quarter but they started to make some more shots and those were dagger threes they hit."