Suns (29-12, 14-8 road, 1st West) @ Bucks (16-25, 11-6 home, 11th East)
Bucks Stats: Offense 19th (100.8 pts/100 poss), Defense 27th (107.0), Rebounding 14th (.504 rr), Pace 17th (93.4)
Suns Stats: Offense 1st (110.4 pts/100 poss), Defense 18th (103.6), Rebounding 30th (.471 rr), Pace 5th (99.8)
Bucks Injuries: Desmond Mason is out at least a few more weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb. David Noel still hasn't played since injuring his wrist in November.
Suns Injuries: Grant Hill is hopeful of returning tonight after undergoing an appendectomy two weeks ago; Boris Diaw has been starting in his place.
07/08 Series: Suns 1-0. Two weeks ago the Suns downed the Bucks 122-114. The Bucks got a career-high 29 (14/16 fg) from Andrew Bogut and trailed by just four with under a minute to go before the Suns pulled out a surprisingly competitive game in Phoenix. Nash scored 35 on 13/17 fg, Amare Stoudemire had 31 on 12/16 fg, and Boris Diaw had 21 on 10/15 fg. In other words, the Bucks didn't play much defense.
- This game marks a rematch of the Suns' win in Phoenix two weeks ago, when the Bucks' season-high 114 points wasn't enough to overcome 57% shooting by Phoenix. Playing against teams like Utah, Phoenix, Golden State and New Orleans, the Bucks have played well in first halves only to be done in by the second half. In many cases turnovers have been major contributors to the Bucks' second half woes, though yesterday in New Orleans the Bucks took good care of the ball but simply couldn't hit enough shots to keep pace.
- The Suns have won three straight following their road loss to the Clippers a week ago. They whipped New Jersey 116-92 on Sunday at home as Amare Stoudemire had 28 and Shawn Marion (16/11) and Boris Diaw (14/10) both chipped in double/doubles. This is the first game of a four game road trip.
- The Bucks have lost two in a row following their home win against Atlanta six days ago, and enter the second half of their season in desperate need of wins. They're still only 2.5 games behind the Pacers for a playoff spot, but consider that the Bucks need to win 24 of their remaining 41 games to finish at 40 wins, a decent target for the eighth playoff spot. That's .585 basketball, a winning percentage that only Boston, Detroit and Orlando have managed so far in the East. There doesn't appear to be that much separating the teams in the 7th through 13th spots, but the Bucks have their work cut out for them.
- A day after Chris Paul easily outplayed Mo Williams in New Orleans, Williams faces two-time MVP Nash a couple weeks after Nash singed the Bucks for 35. The Bucks gave Nash too much room to operate and it was a similar story in New Orleans, as the Bucks' allowed defensive switches to turn into mismatches. Do the Bucks just concede the switch, or is Williams just not working at all to get through screens? This is probably something worth figuring out.
- Everyone always talks about the Suns moving Marion or Stoudemire for salary purposes, but Boris Diaw is the guy they'd really like to get rid of. After his 05/06 Most Improved Player campaign got him a new five year, $45 million deal, Diaw has rewarded the Suns with increasingly poor performance, and this year is putting up only 7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg and 3.8 apg on 44% shooting from the field. His numbers are only slightly better than those of his MIP predecessor Bobby Simmons, who signed a five year, $47 million deal with the Bucks after winning the award in 04/05. At least Bobby can claim injury as an excuse, though both players played well in the last meeting.
- Diaw has had a couple decent games recently starting in place of the injured Grant Hill. The 35-year old Hill had been having a great year since moving from Orlando, averaging 15.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 3.5 apg on .507 shooting before appendicitis shelved him a couple weeks ago. He hopes to return to the lineup tonight.
- Former UW star Alando Tucker was recalled from Albuquerque yesterday. He's averaged 26.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg in 11 games in the D-League, but given Grant Hill is supposed to be coming back anyway I assume this move might be related to the Suns making their only visit to Milwaukee.
- Your daily Andrew Bogut watch: 19.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg and 1.4 bpg in his last nine games.
- Check out Bright Side of the Sun for more on Phoenix.