The Suns rumbled to a 104-96 win over the Bucks as Shaquille O'Neal partied at the Bradley Center like it was 1999, scoring 29 points with 11 boards in a vintage performance. Amare Stoudemire added 24 points, overwhelming Milwaukee's defenseless (and offense-less) frontcourt. Phoenix jumped out to a 7-0 start and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire. The Bucks drew to within a point at 81-80 on a Joe Alexander jumper with over seven minutes in the fourth, but the Suns scored the next five, slowly putting the game out of reach.
- Ramon Sessions. Sessions is fearless in attacking the basket, or even Shaq. That genuinely helps make up for his shooting limitations. Sessions was the only Buck interested in getting to the line in a game defined by the Suns' extreme advantage on free throws. He also followed up his no assist/five turnover game against the Celtics with a more Sessions-like six assist/no turnovers.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The Prince continues to play like royalty off the bench. The amazing thing is that a mere seven games into the season, 14 points and seven boards with a block isn't even a surprise from the second-round pick anymore.
- Charlie Bell. Leave it to the only starter who isn't usually a starter to play like a starter. For starters, Bell's jumper was consistently falling on an offensively deficient night. He certainly didn't take over the game, but did fill in for Michael Redd about as well as you'd hope; Bell hit 6-10 shots for 16 points.
- 41. Bucks' starters contributed only 41 points, not even close to what Shaq/Amare (59 points) scored for the Suns.
25. The Bucks attempted 25 more shots from the field than the Suns, and made 10 more. The free-throw discrepancy was even greater however, as Phoenix attempted 31 more free throws than Milwaukee.
+5. Playing meaningful minutes for the first time in his NBA career, Joe Alexander finished with a team-high +5 differential.
- Alexander the alright. The more we see Alexander, the less he looks like a lottery bust. He might not reach the NBA A-List, but Alexander should be at least a strong contributor. He boasts a quick, decisive first step, and is strong with the ball.
- E-Gad. Granted, he came into the game shooting 71.4 % from the field, but forgive me if I didn't foresee Gadz hitting four of his first five shots (including a couple jumpers) by midway through the second quarter. He was central to the second unit's second quarter run, which flipped an early 13-point deficit into a rather competitive game.
Skiles' trials. You'll notice this is placed pretty close to the "bad" category, but Scott Skiles' insistence on holding everyone accountable is occasionally refreshing, if not potentially damaging down the line. He let Mbah a Moute and Gadzuric play ahead of Villanueva and Bogut when they brought energy and points off the bench, continuing to blur any status distinction between backup second-rounders and starter lottery picks. You can see how Skiles' style might grate on players as time passes though. Villanueva got just nine minutes tonight. What's the countdown until the inevitable clash?
- Here come the Suns. And I say, it's not all right. In contrast to a night earlier against the Celtics, the Bucks came out flatter than salt in Utah. They missed and missed and missed and missed and missed and missed and missed, falling behind 7-0 before Bell netted a jumper more than three minutes into the game. Meanwhile, the Suns established both Shaq and Amare in the post, whereas Bogut and Villanueva were blanked not only in the first quarter, but the entire first half, as Skiles banished the starting frontcourt to the bench after an uninspiring start. On the bright side, the Suns won the first quarter 29-19, but didn't win any of the next three quarters.
Andrew, where are you. My pregame notes called for a breakout offensive game from Bogut, with his mint performances last year against the Suns in mind. So, naturally the Aussie center dropped all of three points and zero assists on 1-7 shooting. That was more than Villanueva (zero points, assists, free throw attempts) mustered in severely reduced court time.
The bottom line. The passive Bucks attempted eight first-half free throws, all by the aggressive Sessions. Seven different Suns meanwhile combined to shoot an absurd 22-26 from the line in the first half. The Suns made as many free throws in the first half as the Bucks had free throw attempts in the entire game. Stoudemire made more free throws (18-17) than Milwaukee. Phoenix inconceivably shot 26 more free throws in the second half, finishing 44-54 from the line. More worrying is that allowing an ordinate amount of free throws isn't a one-time thing for this club either.