Steve Nash: Where amazing happens.
Not in Phoenix. The Bucks return home to face the Suns, which is a mighty good thing considering Milwaukee lost for the 22nd time in a row in Phoenix earlier this season, 105-101. Back then Hakim Warrick was the team's star of the game. Andrew Bogut had a particularly frustrating evening, shooting 5-16 from the field and missing a decisive layup attempt late.
A night after facing the NBA's top-ranked defense, the Bucks now play the best overall offense. During this 10-game winning streak, Phoenix has scored 110+ points nine times, and 132+ points three times, including a 152 spot on Minnesota. This current Suns team is actually the most potent offense of any of the Steve Nash-led teams, boasting an even more efficient offense (115.4 points per 100 possessions) than that 62-win squad in 2004-05 (114.5 points per 100 possessions) with Amare, Nash, , Marion, Q-Rich, and Barbosa. Amazingly, Phoenix has ranked first or second in offensive efficiency in each of Nash's six seasons in Arizona.
Bouncing Back from the Bobs. Charlotte's just 17th in the league in offensive rebound rate, but that didn't stop them from killing the Bucks on the glass when it mattered most. Scott Skiles was not thrilled.
"All night long we couldn't react to balls on the ground. That was really the difference in the game.
"They made all those kind of small plays that add up. They went down to the ground and got balls and we struggled to do it. We held them under 40% (shooting). We didn't have enough contributors offensively, but we still gave ourselves a chance. But when those kind of odd balls hitting the ground and long rebounds, we need to get those and we didn't get them."
The Bucks' struggles were particularly surprising given Milwaukee is 3rd in the league in defensive rebound rate, though the Bucks were effectively playing small with Mbah a Moute marking Stephen Jackson on the wing and Delfino/Salmons at the other swing positions. Phoenix comes in a surprising 8th in offensive rebound rate, so on paper things aren't getting easier.
Amare & Co. The power forward shrugged off all of those trade rumors from earlier this season and absolutely killed it in March: 27.3 points and 9.9 rebounds on 57.7 % from the field last month. Always bad news for the Bucks, Amare pretty much lived at the line in March, including games in which he made 14, 14, 16, 13, and 12 free throws in a three week span.
Though justifiably still overshadowed by his more polished brother, 2008 first rounder Robin Lopez had been making major strides before a bulging disc in his back put him on the shelf a week ago. He's expected to miss at least another week, which is good news for the Bucks since it may force Alvin Gentry to start Jarron Collins, the Suns' other Stanford twin big man.
Needless to say, not all sets of Stanford twins are created equal, and the continued employment of the Collins twins has long been one of the NBA's great mysteries. Neither guy can score worth a lick, they're shockingly terrible rebounders for players of their size, and they don't block shots either. To be honest I can't even remember watching Jarron play in the last five years--he spent most of the time riding the pine in Utah, where he spent the first eight seasons of his career--though Jason is at least a solid one-on-one defender. So by virtue of the fact that a) he's still employed and b) doesn't do anything positive from a statistical standpoint, I'll go ahead and assume Jarron at least plays solid defense. Either way, Gentry isn't crazy--despite starting, Collins has only averaged 12 mpg over the past four games, with Channing Frye absorbing a bigger chunk of minutes in Lopez's absence.
Frye is of course fairly one-dimensional, with over half of his shots coming from three-point range. But he's damn good at that one-dimension, making an excellent 43.7% of his threes despite high volume (nearly five attempts/game), good for a fantastic 59.8% true shooting figure. Frye has gone through an interesting career evolution--remember when he outplayed Boguta couple times as a rookie? I always remember Isiah Thomas' proclamation back in the day that he would have picked Frye first overall if given the chance, which actually didn't sound completely bonkers in the fall of 2005. Now? Well, Knicks fans never got the franchise center they hoped for, but five years later the Suns found an excellent floor-spacing big.
The combination of Frye and Stoudemire up front should mean plenty of good looks for Bogut, but keep in mind the big fella struggled in the team's meeting in Phoenix. Ilyasova is the most natural matchup for Frye, so it'll be interesting to see if the Bucks match the Suns by going small when Bogut isn't on the court. At this point I'd guess Bogut marks Stoudemire rather than Frye, but it'll probably be a fluid thing throughout the game--if Collins starts then Mbah a Moute will presumably guard Amare early on.