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Bucks rally in final minutes to defeat Suns

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PHOENIX — The Milwaukee Bucks have won two times at US Airways Center in the last 20 years.

The Phoenix Suns have lost two times at the buzzer on wacky, last-second 3-point heaves in the last seven days.

Both happened Monday as Bucks forward Khris Middleton hit an off-balance, 25-foot bank shot just before the final buzzer and Milwaukee rallied from 10 points down in the final eight minutes to hand the Suns their sixth straight loss, 96-94 on Monday.

Forward Markieff Morris scored 25 points and put the Suns ahead 94-93 on a 15-footer with 3.5 seconds left. But Middleton twisted his body around Morris and pushed up a shot that hit the backboard and spun around the rim before falling in.

“That was the play. Thank goodness it went in,” said Middleton, who finished with 14 points. “They cut me off, I tried to spin around and get a good look at the rim and I did. It was lucky it just went in off the glass. The craziest (shot) went in but that’s how it is sometimes.”

As Middleton was mobbed by his teammates at midcourt, the Suns walked off a loser at the buzzer for the second time in seven days — Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers did the trick with an overtime 3-pointer at Staples Center on Dec. 8 that hit the front of the rim, bounced high in the air and came down cleanly through the net.

“This one hurts. They all hurt,” said Suns guard Isaiah Thomas, who scored 20 points, including 11 straight early in the fourth quarter to give Phoenix a 10-point cushion. “The Clippers (game) and this one, we felt like we did enough to win the game and then at the buzzer, they make a crazy shot.

“We have to get ourselves out of this hole we’ve put ourselves in. I feel once we get one, we’ll know what it feels like to win again and get our confidence back.”

Guard Brandon Knight scored 20 points to lead Milwaukee, who didn’t lead until the final 3:23 of the game. Zaza Pachulia had 13 points and guard O.J. Mayo had 12 for the Bucks (14-12).

The Bucks lost rookie forward Jabari Parker to a sprained left knee in the third period. Parker’s knee buckled inward as he drove to the basket in transition and he fell to the ground in pain before being carried off the floor by his teammates. He left the building on crutches with his knee in a brace. Bucks coach Jason Kidd said Parker will have an MRI on Tuesday to determine the extent of the damage.

“He’s the franchise. The good thing about it was he was smiling by the time we got back to the locker room,” Dudley said. “He’ll get the MRI and we hope it’s just a sprain and we’ll get him back in a couple of weeks. We’ll keep him in our prayers.”

The Suns committed 23 turnovers — the Bucks had 20 themselves — and missed 26 of 38 3-pointers in the game to fall two games below .500 (12-14) for the first time this season.

The Suns have lost four of the last five at US Airways Center and now against a team they have dominated in Arizona. The Suns had won 20 of 21 meetings with Milwaukee at US Airways Center, and had won 39 of the last 46 games against the Bucks overall. They appeared to have this one under control when Thomas scored 11 straight points, including three 3-pointers to turn a 72-71 lead into an 83-73 advantage with 8:03 left.

But Phoenix went more than seven minutes without a basket and the Bucks capped a 13-2 run and took their first lead of the game at 86-85 on a Pachulia layin with 3:23 left.

“Again, just careless, we’ve got to value the ball more,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “What did we have, 23 turnovers? We didn’t know where the shot clock was. That stretch (after getting up by 10) was the killer. You have an opportunity to stretch the lead, and then we have some dumb fouls. You give a life at the end and bad things can happen.”

Phoenix guard Gerald Green, who was 2-for-15 from 3-point range, hit a 3-pointer to give the Suns a 90-88 lead with 41 seconds left, but ex-Sun Jared Dudley matched him with a 3-pointer to put Milwaukee back in front with 28 seconds to play. The teams traded baskets again before Morris gave the Suns their final lead of the night and Middleton answered one last time.

“We didn’t panic because playing the Suns is similar to playing the Philadelphia Eagles … you know you’re going to have a lot of possessions and time to come back,” Dudley said. “Even in the fourth quarter, their shots are so quick in the shot clock and they shoot so many 3s. If you can get some turnovers and get in transition, you can give them a taste of their own medicine.

“At the end of the day, we just made one more play than they did.”

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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