It was his first 30-point game since March 9, 2007 when he was with the Miami Heat.
In fact, 36-year-old Shaquille O'Neal scored 35 points against the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night to lead the Suns to a 125-110 victory, the team's largest point total of the year. We'd say this was a return to the good old days of the last few years, if we didn't know better.
Thing is, the Suns always play well against Milwaukee (9-14). Especially at home, where they've beaten the Bucks' 21 straight times.
When we lived in L.A., we watched Shaq religiously through his three championships with the Lakers, when he was dominating the league. We'd say this was a return to those good old days (that General Manager Steve Kerr and owner Robert Sarver weren't crazy for trading Shawn Marion for a relic), if we didn't know better.
This isn't to say they shouldn't have traded the choke-artist pain in the ass, just that they should've gotten somebody like, say, Pao Gasol for him. Budget-consciousness, salary cap, whatever, you have to pay to play in the NBA bigtime. Which is why the Lakers are back to being the best team in basketball this year.
Actually, Tuesday night at US Airways Center was a replay of November 8, when the old man scored 27 against the Bucks in Milwaukee and the Suns won 107-96. For some reason, O'Neal has the Bucks' number, especially Andrew Bogut's. The Milwaukee center was held to 15 points and had to sit down with five fouls in the fourth quarter.
Some of that had to do with Amare Stoudemire, who scored 22 points and had eight boards (the same number of rebounds as O'Neal). With either Shaq or Amare in the middle, Bogut was helpless.
The Suns (13-9) did look good Tuesday night, as they did against the Carlos Boozer-less Utah Jazz Saturday night. The question is, will this flawless, high-scoring offense stick?
We doubt it. Don't forget that four-game losing streak that was snapped by the Jazz win, when the Suns looked pathetic, like they wouldn't even make the playoffs -- much less advance past last season's first-round exit.
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One thing's for certain: The team will have its work cut out for it tonight against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Shaq will be heading back home to attend the funeral of his grandmother and won't play. (So we're praying that lame commentators can skip blathering about the tired old feud between the two.)
We just hope that Coach Terry Porter uses this as an opportunity to return to the fast-paced offense of the past three years, with rookie center Robin Lopez starting in place of the missing link. Unlike Shaq, Lopez can run. And jump.
It would be a chance to see if that could work against a team where (Shaq or not) the Suns will get dominated in the paint. With seven-footers Andrew Bynum and Gasol in the Lakers' Lineup at the same time, the Suns' only hope is to run up the kind of points they did against Milwaukee.
Okay, it's official. Last night's game made us miss Mike D'Antoni -- Rick Barrs