On December 15th, the Bucks began a West Coast road trip with the hopes that they could survive a tough scheduling stretch. They won the first game of that trip in Phoenix on a wild buzzer-beater from Khris Middleton, but lost Jabari Parker to an apparent knee injury that was later revealed to be a torn ACL. That night was jam packed full of emotions, but it showed that the Bucks were a far more resilient--and productive--team than most first thought.
Less than a month later, the Bucks are still humming along nicely through injuries and some distraction, but they face a much tougher Suns opponent this time around. The Bucks stole a win in a building they had trouble winning in the last time these two teams met, but tonight they have to find a way to win at home, a place where they've dropped the previous three games in rather disappointing fashion.
Phoenix comes in to town scorching, having won 8 of their last 10 games, the latest a pounding of the Toronto Raptors at home. There are several factors you could point to for the recent success, but perhaps the biggest reason for the improvement can be attributed to health. Last time around, the Suns were without Goran Dragic. Now that he's back in the fold, the Suns have been able to settle into more of a rhythm--especially in their crowded, but talented backcourt--and the results have been impressive, highlighted by back-to-back wins against the Wizards and Mavericks during this 10-game stretch.
At last check, the Suns injury report was clean, while the Bucks continues to be crowded and confusing. Larry Sanders started out the day looking like he didn't want to play basketball anymore, but then that was refuted, sort of. The day ended with the news that Sanders may be re-joining the team, and soon.
In short: stay tuned, because this situation could keep changing. On a lighter note, Ersan Ilyasova has returned to the team and has started doing some basketball activities after suffering a concussion on December 23rd. There's no timetable set for Ilyasova's return, but he hoped to do more Tuesday and work his way back into the frontcourt rotation that's very much in need of some depth.
Matchup: Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. P.J. Tucker
The short and stocky Tucker has been a thorn in the side of the long and elastic Giannis in every matchup between the Bucks and Suns in Giannis's short NBA career, and Tuesday figured to be no different. Giannis was only able to collect 6p/8r on 2-7 shooting last time they squared off, but as shown the ability time and time again to make adjustments to better impact the game. Will this be the time that Giannis figures it out, or will we have another Muk-Bellsprout situation to discuss after the game?
(Sorry for the Pokemon reference).
In Aron Yohannes' fantastic get to know you piece on Giannis, I came across one question and answer that continues to poke at my curiosity.