Bucks. vs. Suns Preview: An Impending Cham-Pain Supernova

I chose Luke Ridnour for the main photo on this preview. Because I have that power. - Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks have started 2014 1-11 and can't score on a PlaySkool hoop. The Phoenix Suns have won two straight on their road trip and are chugging strong without Eric Bledsoe. I wish I could be optimistic, but alas reality beckons.

2013/2014 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(8-36, 4-17 home)
vs.
Pho
(26-18, 11-11 away)
January 29, 2014
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG Goran Dragic
Giannis Antetokounmpo SG Gerald Green
Khris Middleton SF P.J Tucker
Ersan Ilyasova PF Channing Frye
John Henson C Miles Plumlee
2013/14 Advanced Stats
91.1 (26th) Pace 95.6 (7th)
90.0 (30th) ORtg 108.9 (9th)
108.6 (25th) DRtg 105.4 (12th)

On the Suns: Bright Side of the Sun | Valley of the Suns

Suns Update. The Phoenix Suns are far from the most complete team in the NBA (although they’d occupy the third seed in the Eastern Conference, all things being equal). But Prius-sized imperfections are no match for the F-350 Quad Cab Super Duty of failure that is the 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks. Phoenix excels at defending the perimeter, pushing the pace, and scoring before your defense knows it’s in transition (18% of points off fast breaks – 2nd overall). The Suns aren’t much for sharing though, ranking last in percentage of points off assists (10% below their closest competition) and first in unassisted two pointers. Without Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic is the sole quality facilitator on the Suns, although I wouldn’t put it past Ish Smith to repeat his 8 points, 8 assist performance from the Suns’ January 4th victory over the Bucks.

Moveable Objects, Meet Hard-To-Stop Force. Elsewhere, the Suns operate efficiently in the pick-and-roll, ranking second in PPP as the driver and third in PPP as the roll man. They also take a lot of corner threes (3rd in the NBA), and rank sixth in three point attempts per game elsewhere beyond the arc. Phoenix is also very good at limiting mid-range shots, but can convert when they do take them (41% FG). As you can probably guess, this unassisted efficiency narrative does not bode well for a Bucks defense that struggles to fight through and recover from screens (17th in PPP on ball man, 28th in PPP on roll man).

Offensively inoffensive. Over their last six games, the Bucks have been outscored by an average of 17 points. Since the final score is the ultimate litmus test for success, I’ll spare you the gory minute details that make Eli Roth movies look like Nicholas Sparks book-to-film adaptations.

NOTHING EASY. After 26 dapper-filled games on the sideline, Zaza Pachulia is closer than ever to returning from a stress fracture in his right foot. Of course, the linear nature of time and body injuries would suggest each passing day brings the Pach-Man closer to playing, but the gargantuan Georgian participated fully in practice Tuesday, and was upgraded from "DNP-Injury" to "DNP-CD" for tonight’s game. The question now, of course, centers not on if he’s going to play, but how much. Given all that has transpired in 2014, it’ll be hard to justify reduced minutes for Larry Sanders, John Henson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Ersan Ilyasova and even Miroslav Raduljica. Zaza’s minutes will have to come from somewhere, but in a season whose sole remaining concrete value lies in its ability to showcase youth in real-time NBA action, why mess with an already saturated front court by giving 20+ minutes each night to a skills-limited 29-year-old coming off an ominous foot injury?

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