MILWAUKEE - The Suns fixed one of the two problems that created one of the worst losses in franchise history Monday night in New Jersey.
Of course, Phoenix picked the easy one — its offense — to tinker with first.
The Suns went back to making half their shots, had seven players in double figures, rang up 11 3-pointers and 110 points while Steve Nash went from zero to 23 points in 24 hours.
It wasn’t nearly enough.
And until the Suns address their horrific defense — which hasn’t been the same since Kurt Thomas slipped out of the lane and into a cast a month ago — and stop giving the kind of effort that sends the visiting team scrambling to rewrite their record books, even their potent offense will be rendered powerless.
Tuesday, the Suns turned a 35-35 Milwaukee team that scores 97 points a game into an offensive juggernaut. The Bucks pounded Phoenix inside for 58 first-half points, then set an NBA record with 11 3-pointers during a 46-point third quarter, racing away to a 132-110 win at the Bradley Center.
Suddenly, the Suns have lost two in a row and four of the last six — and almost all of them in gruesome fashion. And their mastery over the Eastern Conference, against whom they were 44-11 over the last two years before hitting New Jersey, has become a mockery.
“We have to get our energy back. We’re kind of broken right now,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We scored 110 points, that should be enough to win, but we have to find a way to tough it out and defend better.
“We’ve lost a little bit of steam and when that happens, especially on the road, you get pounded in this league.”
The Bucks had their hammers out. They reached 100 points in the third quarter and 130 points in a game for the first time since Jan. 10, 2000. They finished with a franchise-record 18 3-pointers, and the 46-point explosion in the third was their best quarter in 15 years. Michael Redd had 21 of his 28 points in the last 17 minutes and Suns castoff Charlie Bell hung a triple-double (19 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists) on his former mates — at least those who recall his five-game stint in 2001-02.
In the last two games, the Suns have allowed 242 points, 31 3-pointers and countless dunks and layups to a pair of Eastern Conference teams not used to such rarified air.
“I know we’re undersized and we don’t want to get in foul trouble, but we have to take the defensive challenge and get to work,” Phoenix forward Brian Grant said. “You don’t want to panic or jump ship, but we’ve definitely got to be concerned about it. Every man on the team has to look in the mirror and ask what they can do to help, and then we have to take the same approach as a team.”
The Bucks missed 9-of-13 3-pointers in the first half and Raja Bell held Redd to only four shots as the Suns took a 62-58 lead to the break. But weary of watching Milwaukee pound inside for easy baskets, the Suns began double-teaming in the third quarter, daring Milwaukee to make outside shots.
And 12 minutes later, the Bucks were record breakers.
“Those 3s are lower percentage shots, I understand that,” Raja Bell said. “But could Andrew Bogut have beaten us? I don’t know. But I know Michael Redd can, and he was quiet until I had to start leaving him.
“We’ll be looking for a new strategy, and our coaches will put us in the right position to stop people. We’ve played too well all year to beat ourselves up over two games.”
The April 5 home game with the Los Angeles Clippers has been moved to 7:30 p.m. to accommodate ESPN.