The Bucks managed to only come away with minor burns tonight, as they played a mostly competent game against the Phoenix Suns before ultimately fizzling out when it mattered the most. The Bucks put up a season high in points with 117, but also surrendered a season high in points allowed with 126. Though the Bucks' offense was serviceable tonight, it's extremely difficult for them to keep pace with a machine like Phoenix, who were paced by a banged up Goran Dragic (30p/6a/4r), Gerald Green (23p), and the Morris twins (29p combined). Every mistake on either end was magnified in some way, and alas, a defeat.
It felt like the game was headed for another devastating blowout in the beginning of the second quarter, but the Bucks were able to get focused and go on a couple of runs that brought the game within a ''respectable'' 12 point margin by the half. This was mostly a result of very impressive play from Brandon Knight (24p/8a on 6-15 shooting) and Larry Sanders (14p/9r). It was arguably the best stretch of Sanders' season, and possibly Knight's, considering he wasn't settling for really any jumpers. Knight was adamant in attacking the basket (which lead to him getting 11 attempts at the line and making all 11), and if he couldn't capitalize, it seemed like Sanders was there to clean up the rest.
There were also a few times when Sanders caught the ball in the post (save for one horrible turnaround jumper) where he maneuvered his way to a deep spot in the paint and flipped up a controlled hook shot with either hand. It seems that with Sanders' post game, using his length is more important once he gets to a spot rather than using his agility to get to said spot. Sometimes Sanders is in such a damn hurry to get near the basket that he loses control of arm and foot work and hoists something up that makes bile and parts of your dinner climb up your esophagus. But when he is patient in his movements and uses his massive wingspan (similar to John Henson's post moves) to get above the defender and flick a shot towards the rim, the results tend to be better (or at least less painful). Nevertheless, both Knight and Sanders had encouraging games, though they both ran out of steam towards the end. That's been rare this season for Sanders, so soak it in while you can.
Speaking of rare, holy Supersova! Ersan Ilyasova pulled some kind of sorcery tonight, dropping in a team-best 27 points on 7-15 shooting. I was there, you were all watching somewhere, and yet nobody can exactly figure out how he ended up with so many points. It was ridiculous. Ersan was also money from the free throw stripe (10-10) and was able to knock down shots from multiple spots on the floor, which can only be a good sign for him. The downside for Ersan tonight (and really, his career) is that he can be a disaster in motion. Anytime he puts the ball on the deck or receives a pass on a fast break, brace yourselves, because quite literally anything could happen. It's a similar story on defense--every time he seemed to do something right on offense, the Suns seemed to take advantage of him on the next possession defensively.
Our little All-Star weekend representative Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't have an impact on most of the game, but there were random 30 or 45 second bursts where Giannis looked like a demi-god among men. He only put up 6p/4a/2r, but when he did tally those stats, he looked ridiculously overwhelming to the opposing defense. We all very much look forward to seeing those spurts expand to longer stretches, though of late it looks like the rookie wall may be taking its toll.
It seemed like tonight's five best players were Nate Wolters, Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson (didn't start out so hot, but played better later), and Larry Sanders. The problem was they never saw the floor together as a full unit. There were multiple occasions in the second half when Larry Drew could have made one simple substitution to get this lineup out there, but it never happened. I'm not trying to knock Khris Middleton and Caron Butler, but why don't you let your best unit try and bring you back into the game for real? Drew's rotations have been called into question more than a handful of times this season, but this time seemed extra perplexing (to me, at least).
Another Packer got the loudest ovation of the night. This time it was Donald Driver.
I caught two t-shirts. Am I elite?
The Bucks will end January in Orlando on Friday against the somehow less awful Magic. That game should be something else. Can the Bucks snag multiple wins in January???