Phoenix: Where the Bucks don't happen?
The Suns decided to get all "watchable" again and video-gamed the Bucks 125-105, resurrecting their offensive juggernaut at least for one night by hitting from inside (Shaq + Amare = 57 points) and outside (8-14 from deep).
The Phoenix frontcourt was on display front and center, as O'Neal (35 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) and Stoudemire (22 points, eight rebounds, three steals) dominated Milwaukee for the second time in as many tries this season.
Milwaukee's moderately big three of Michael Redd (23 points), Richard Jefferson (22), and Andrew Bogut (15) redeemed themselves offensively a bit after the no-show against the Lake Show, but defense in Phoenix was lacking more than warm weather in Milwaukee.
Charlie Villanueva tallied 24 points and nine boards off the bench to lead the Bucks, and his jumper gave the Bucks a 41-38 lead early in the second quarter. But Milwaukee seemingly allowed points by the dozen and trailed 74-64 at halftime, a deficit they were unable to climb all the way back from.
The Bucks fell to the Suns on the road for the 21st time in a row.
- Charlie Villanueva. Maybe it's best not to mess with a good thing, but Villanueva continues to make an overwhelming case he should start. Building on a strong December, he added 24 points and nine rebounds on 9-15 from the field. Meanwhile, Luc Mbah a Moute remains rutt; he had as many fouls as points (4) and more turnovers (3) than rebounds (2) tonight. CV also gets bonus-points for his involvement in the peculiar. Blessed with a four-on-two fastbreak in the third quarter, Jefferson dished backward to Redd for a three. But Redd pumpfaked the three and passed back to Jefferson, who missed the jumper. But Villanueva positioned himself for the offensive board and then threw down a slam. A few minutes later, Villanueva tied up Steve Nash for a jump ball. Nash didn't jump, but Phoenix gained possession.
Andrew Bogut. O'Neal (and the Suns' offense generally) was the story of the night; Gadzuric, Villanueva, Mbah a Moute, and Bogut were in foul trouble all night long for a reason. While an overmatched Milwaukee frontcourt was helpless to defend, Bogut was proficient in other aspects of the game. He asserted himself early on the offensive end, controlled the glass, and didn't turn the ball over. That added up to 15/11 on 7-9 shooting in 22 minutes.
Michael Redd. Redd failed to register an assist for the second game in a row, sort of remarkable feat in itself. But tonight hopefully marked the beginning of the return of the dead-eye shooter that we have missed oh-so-much. Since returning from injury on Nov. 29, Redd had shot 21/52 (.403) from the field and 4/15 (.267) on three-pointers prior to the game. Tonight, he hit 8/17 from the field, 2/3 from deep, and 5/6 from the line. He isn't going to become an all-around superstar just because he makes big money, so realistically it would be great for him to at least provide major offensive firepower to a unit in need.
- 74. So, that was just a few weeks ago when the Bucks gave up 74 points to the Bobcats, right? The Bucks allowed 74 again tonight, alright; it's just that they did it by halftime. That's the most any team in the league has scored/allowed in the first half this season a lot.
- 35. It's hard to believe, but the last time Shaq got 30+ was way back on March 9, 2007 against Minny. The Big Efficiency tallied 35 tonight after scoring 29 the first time around against the Bucks four weeks ago.
- 101. The Suns' starters combined for a cool 101 points, a particularly striking total a game after the Bucks' starters put up 11.
- Offense not off. Offensive performances like this one have been few and far in between for Milwaukee this year. The 110 points is the most they've scored in regulation this season (they dropped 112 on Washington in overtime over a month ago). Redd, Jefferson, Bogut, and Villanueva are pretty good scorers, and they showed that tonight with 85 points. Ridnour and Sessions combined for 14 assists and one turnover. Unfortunately, they ran into an even hotter shooting team and left the desert with a 15-point loss, their worst margin of the still-young year.
- 'Drew's determination. It was nice to see some fight in Andrew, especially in the face of Shaq getting the better of him again. He had a particularly nice end-to-end play in the third quarter by stripping Shaq of the ball and hustling down the court for a dunk.
Leaving 'Zona. Milwaukee doesn't need to lose in Phoenix again until next year. Not only that, but the next six go like this: @Warriors, Pacers, @Heat, @Sixers, @Knicks, Clippers. No easy tasks, but certainly better than most of the past month, which has included gems like @Cavaliers, Celtics, @Nuggets, @Jazz, @Magic, @Pistons, @Lakers, @Suns etc.
It's been a hot minute. Or a short lifetime, since the Bucks have won in Phoenix. With the loss, Milwaukee extended its streak to 7,963 days without a win in Phoenix. The Bucks did beat the Suns on Feb. 21, 1987 by a 115-107 count, we can assure you. The Suns, however, have scored 21 straight wins at home over the Bucks since then.
- Second quarter blues. It's getting to the point where we are considering launching an investigation into why the Bucks can't win second quarters. They came into the game winning 21% of their second quarters, the worst percentage in the NBA. Following an entertaining and tight first quarter, the Suns opened up a double-digit lead with a 38-29 second quarter. Andrew Bogut, or the lack thereof, certainly played a role in tonight's second quarter collapse. Saddled with foul trouble, he had a one point and two rebounds in the second period following an eight point/three rebound first quarter.
- Sunburned. The slowing of the Suns (a very average 14th in efficiency entering the game) was a point made in the pregame notes. Naturally, Phoenix channeled its inner offensive dynamo, running Milwaukee out of Arizona with a season-high 125 points. Steve Nash played orchestrator and had Shaq, Amare, and Leandro singing on the court in varied octaves but all in tune.