Phoenix seems to be the only city left in the United States that remains untouched by the cold, snow, and ice, but even the Valley of the Sun couldn't heat up the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Suns topped the Bucks 92-77 thanks to a truly dismal offensive performance by the Bucks, who shot a season-low 31.1% from the floor and only kept the score moderately respectable with a relatively (by Milwaukee standards) hot streak in the 4th.
Ten Bucks saw the court in the game, with each playing at least ten minutes. Six of them made three or fewer shots. Corey Maggette (6-for-12) stood as the only Buck to make at least half his shots.
The Bucks haven't won in Phoenix since 1987, and from the outset the result looked sure to fall right in line. Phoenix held an eight point lead after one quarter, a 21 point advantage at the half, and never led by less than nine the rest of the way. Phoenix's offense typically looked crisp, as the Suns ran masterful pick-and-rolls and seemed to clean up most of their rare misses with putbacks or threes from offensive boards. The Suns, with statistically the worst defense in the NBA (109.5 DRtg), hardly had to put up a fight, as Milwaukee shot-and-missed it's way to an 87.9 ORtg.
Shockingly, a few minutes into the fourth quarter, the crowd (and I alike) was startled to find the home team leading by a mere 9 points. How such a thing was possible is beyond me. But a key exchange seemed to sap what little energy the Bucks had left for a comeback. After a Suns timeout with 8:32 remaining, Chris Douglas-Roberts picked off an errant pass by Steve Nash and took off down the court. As he weaved his way through Suns defenders, he finally ran into Grant Hill as he tried for a layup. Hill rejected the attempt and the Suns were running back the other direction in an instant, with Marcin Gortat's layup coming a mere seven seconds after Jared Dudley's defensive board. Earl Boykins' jumper a half-minute later was answered by one from Hill, after which a pair of free-throws and a Nash three stretched the lead back to 15. Milwaukee never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.
It was just about the lowest of the low for the Bucks, who looked helpless on defense without Andrew Bogut and flailed wildly on offense for essentially the entire game. This squad is probably happy they don't have to make another trip to Phoenix for many months.
Unless they meet in the Finals! Wouldn't that be something!
Ersan Ilyasova. Ersan shot 7-20 tonight, but for the majority of the 48 minutes looked like the only Buck genuinely concerned by the tragedy occurring on the floor. He showed his typical hustle and will, stretching for loose balls and rebounds and flying in after one Milwaukee miss for a putback layup. Sure he was 1-5 from deep, but he was probably the best green-clad player on the court. Alas, when that's the case, the result is often undesirable.
Brandon Jennings. Jennings returns to the Three Bucks in honor of his return to the starting lineup, and because he somehow grabbed four offensive rebounds. We could blame his 2-10 shooting night on tired legs or a lack of any established rhythm, but we'd probably be kidding ourselves.
Garrett Temple. Temple shot 25% (1-4). That was a better percentage than four other Bucks including two starters. It was that kind of game.
46. Points in the Paint for Phoenix. Compared to 18 for Milwaukee. Surprisingly, evidence continues to mount that Andrew Bogut is vital to Milwaukee's even limited success. Yet Defensive Player of the Year honors remain unlikely.
12. Steals for Milwaukee. Phoenix's offense seemed to find some new way to score every time down the floor, but was actually fairly sloppy for parts of the night. Steve Nash, for example, turned the ball over nine times. The Suns' up-tempo style leaves them prone to turnovers, and they don't much care most of the time, but those many steals presented the Bucks' best chance of getting back into the contest. Unfortunately, steals don't count for points, and the Bucks found it pretty difficult to pay off the quick hands.
11. Blocks for Phoenix, who often times looked like men defending boys. The Sun's starting frontcourt swatted seven shots (Bogut calls that an off night) among the three of them, and Gortat blocked a pair himself. Between those return-to-senders and some of the bricks Milwaukee was throwing up, the ball spent very little time near Phoenix's rim.
Protecting those valuable possessions. Milwaukee took care of the ball quite well, only racking up 8 team turnovers and earning a stellar 7.5 TOR. Normally that kind of careful ball control goes a long way toward winning games. Unfortunately, the Bucks coupled it with an abysmal .88 points per possession.
The Worst Shooting Night Yet. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, Milwaukee goes out and misses 62 shot attempts. Since 1986, only 12 teams have shot worse than .311 and won, so it's safe to say the deck was stacked pretty heavily against the Bucks.
No Bogut, No Ideas. Milwaukee doesn't attempt a whole lot of threes each game, with their 15.7-per mark coming in 21st in the NBA. But without Bogut, the Bucks looked helpless to get anything resembling a good look near the rim, instead hoisting 23 shots from behind the arc, ten more than the typically trigger-happy Suns. They missed 18 of them.