Throughout this season, the Milwaukee Bucks have regularly failed to build on their best performances. Midway through the third quarter on Sunday in Phoenix, it looked like the Bucks would once again disappoint after their encouraging battle in Oakland on Friday. Instead, they turned around a 68-53 deficit to eventually pull out a much-needed victory 101-95 in Phoenix.
The first quarter featured incredibly sloppy play from the Suns, helping the Bucks overcome the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo (late scratch with knee tendinitis) and run out to a 23-13 lead behind eight quick points inside from Greg Monroe. Unfortunately, the Suns' bench fueled a 12-4 run to end the quarter and pulled within one at 27-26. Jeff Hornacek's bench then continued their strong play in the second quarter, tallying 32 points in the first half including 14 from T.J. Warren and seven points from Markieff Morris. On the other side, the Bucks' starters couldn't regain the points that the bench had lost, leaving the Bucks a 53-45 deficit at the half.
The Bucks came out of the locker room lackadaisically to open the third, with Jason Kidd going so far as benching Jabari Parker after two missed layups in the opening two minutes of third quarter action. The Bucks saw their deficit grow to as many as 15 midway through the period, but John Henson and Johnny O'Bryant helped spark an 18-3 run to end the quarter and shrink the Suns' lead to just one heading into the final period.
Once again, the Bucks put themselves in a hole in the fourth quarter, going down by nine points on a Jon Leuer jumper with 7:18 left in the game. But then the Bucks did something rather out of character: instead of folding, they responded with an 11-0 run to take an 88-86 lead on back-to-back threes from Rashad Vaughn and Khris Middleton. The two teams traded baskets until the Bucks made a stop to get the ball back with 34 seconds on the clock and both teams tied at 95.
After repeatedly using Middleton and Monroe on the left elbow in the final five minutes of the final period, the Bucks changed things up and went to Monroe on the right. Monroe attacked to the middle of the floor, spun back to his right, and then used a step through move to get past Tyson Chandler and lay it in to give the Bucks a 97-95 lead with 20 seconds left.
The Suns had a chance to tie the game with 20 seconds remaining, but Michael Carter-Williams capped an excellent night by tearing the ball away from Eric Bledsoe with seven seconds left. Ultimately, the Bucks would make four more free-throws to seal the game.
Khris Middleton was fantastic for the Bucks on Sunday. Throughout the second half, the Bucks leaned on Middleton to create offensively and he delivered, scoring 26 points and recording seven assists for the game. As he has been throughout this road trip, Carter-Williams was outstanding and carried the Bucks for various stretches of the game.
- Today's victory helped the Bucks snap a 12-game losing streak on the road, with their last victory away from home coming Nov. 6 against the New York Knicks. During that stretch, nine of their opponents topped 100 or more points.
- The Bucks recharged and ended the third quarter with a 15-2 run that was sparked by a glorious Johnny O'Bryant layup. Phoenix shot just 33 percent (5-of-15 shooting) while Milwaukee went on their run.
- Middleton had 11 fourth quarter points, which included four points at the free-throw line to seal the game, plus a triple that helped cut the lead to one.
- The rookie Vaughn played 10 key minutes in the fourth and knocked down two big triples.
- Carter-Williams with a near triple-double: 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
- Former Buck Brandon Knight was fairly quiet. Knight started the game 1-of-6 from the field and only finished with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting.
- The Bucks were easily scoring at the beginning of the game. Eight of their first 10 points were via easy layups in the paint and on fastbreaks.
- Jason Kidd called a timeout for his team at the 2:37 mark in the first quarter. Coming out of that break until the end of the half, the Bucks fell behind as the Suns outscored them 37-22.
- Despite the win, it was absolutely unfair what Phoenix's bench did compared to Milwaukee's. The Suns got 43 points from their second unit, including 32 in the first half compared to the Bucks who just got five.
- Chris Copeland got some early run off the bench in the first quarter. He played eight minutes exactly, which was his biggest portion of action since Nov. 21.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo was a late scratch for today's game due to knee tendinitis.
- Miles Plumlee didn't see the floor despite his strong performances in Oakland and L.A.
- O.J. Mayo and Markieff Morris each received a technical foul in the first quarter for talking junk.
- After the game, the Bucks announced Kidd will be out indefinitely due to hip surgery.
- This game looked very much like a Sunday afternoon one with sloppy play from both teams early.
- I assume it is because of his ground-bound play, huge shoulders, and generally just massive body, but despite creating a lot of contact on the way to the basket, Greg Monroe doesn't really seem to get calls. He also doesn't really flail his body or accentuate contact, which might help him get more calls, but he gets hit an awful lot for someone that doesn't go to the line.
- If the Bucks make a move (to add Caron Butler or other veteran), I don't think their corresponding move to make space on the roster is a difficult decision. Copeland is beyond awful and has done nothing this season to prove he deserves to be on an NBA roster.
- Jabari Parker was benched in the third quarter after just over two minutes of action. O'Bryant entered for him and played the final 9:52 of the third quarter. It seemed like his ability to give some consistency to the defensive rotations really helped the Bucks.
- Watching Parker get benched for O'Bryant is a sobering experience, but helps show the most significant way in which Parker is currently struggling. Offensively, O'Bryant is not a star, but somehow he gets himself in the right spots on the floor and gets his feet set to hit an open jumper. On the other hand, it seems like Parker feels like he needs to make a spectacular play every time he touches it. He's cutting wildly all over the floor. He's immediately putting the ball on the ground on the catch. It looks like he is pressing so much to make a play when doing something more simple could really help the offense and Parker as well.