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Streaking Suns make it 16 in a row


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Raja Bell scored 27 points to lead all five Phoenix starters in double figures, and the Suns set a franchise record with their 16th straight victory by beating the scrappy Milwaukee Bucks 98-90 on Friday night.


Shawn Marion grabbed 23 rebounds and Steve Nash had 16 assists for the seemingly unstoppable Suns, who have won 32 of 34 overall. They had a 15-game winning streak earlier this season, a run that ended with a 144-139 overtime loss to Washington on Dec. 22.


Still, Nash was frustrated.


"There's no rings for streaks," he said. "We've had a tendency to really take people lightly and not be as focused as we need to be, and I think you saw that again from us tonight."


Suns coach Mike D'Antoni didn't sound happy about his decision to give the team the day off Thursday in Milwaukee, a mistake that won't be repeated before Phoenix plays at Cleveland on Sunday in the fourth stop of its five-game road trip.


D'Antoni said everyone was out-of-sync against the Bucks.


"That comes from a day off and laying around the hotel all day," he said. "We'll lace them up tomorrow at noon and have a little practice."


Marion's 23 rebounds were one off his career high. Nash had 18 points, but he committed eight turnovers.


The victory gave Phoenix a tie for the 10th-longest winning streak in NBA history and the longest since the Los Angeles Lakers reeled off 19 straight wins in 2000.


"It's hard to feel real proud about it because we haven't been playing as well as we can for much of the streak," Nash said.


The Suns, now 19-1 against the East, improved to 11-0 on the road against the Eastern Conference, the best since the 1994-95 Utah Jazz matched that mark.


Amare Stoudemire scored 21 points, Marion 11 and Boris Diaw 11 for Phoenix.


Milwaukee, which has lost six straight and 11 of 12, was led by Charlie Bell with 21 points. Earl Boykins had 18 points, Ersan Ilyasova 13, Ruben Patterson 11 and Andrew Bogut 10.


Charlie Villanueva, who returned after missing 11 games because of right shoulder tendinitis, didn't start but finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.


Phoenix extended its lead to 83-71 early in the fourth after Milwaukee went nearly four minutes without a point and missed its first six shots to start the quarter. But the Bucks kept plugging away, in part by outscoring Phoenix 23-11 on second-chance points.


Charlie Bell's two free throws cut the Suns' lead to 91-87, and Stoudemire was whistled for an over-the-back call that led to Bogut hitting the first of two foul shots with 1:57 left.


Nash hit a 16-foot jumper, but Bogut answered with a hook shot in the lane to make it 93-90. After Stoudemire was called for a charge, Ilyasova decided not to try a 3-pointer from the top of the key and he couldn't get a shot off on his drive as the Bucks were whistled for a shot clock violation.


"The play was for Andrew Bogut to get the ball in a post-up play," the 19-year-old rookie said. "He kicked it out to me and I hesitated."


Bucks coach Terry Stotts didn't blame Ilyasova.


"I think we have confidence when he's in there," Stotts said. "He is a good shooter, but obviously he wishes he could get that possession back."


On the ensuing possession, Raja Bell hit a 3 from the corner, his seventh of the game, off Nash's 16th assist to give Phoenix a 96-90 lead with 19.9 seconds left to seal the victory.


"We did what we had to to get the win," Marion said. "That's all that matters."


The Bucks, without their starting backcourt of Michael Redd and Mo Williams, simply didn't have the firepower to overcome Phoenix, even on an off night.


Milwaukee, which scored the most points any team has against Phoenix this season in regulation in a 122-116 loss on Dec. 1, tried slowing the pace and playing defense. But the Bucks shot 36 percent from the field for the third quarter, including 2-of-8 from Boykins.


In the first half, the Suns went more than four minutes without a field goal spanning the first and second quarters. A few minutes into the second, D'Antoni had finally seen enough.


Raja Bell hit back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the lead to 32-20, but the Bucks reeled off three straight 3s of their own that forced Phoenix to call a timeout with D'Antoni stomping on the court and gesturing to his players to get to the bench.


The Bucks briefly took the lead, 47-45, but Raja Bell hit another 3 and Phoenix clung to a 52-50 halftime advantage.



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