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Milwaukee vs. Phoenix: Depleted Depth Nearly Dooms Bucks


NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks got their four game road trip started with a 113-107 victory over the lowly Phoenix Suns in over time. The Bucks entered last night at less than 100 percent (and that’s putting it generously) with Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson, Mirza Teletovic, and Matthew Dellavedova all unavailable. This led to a wonky starting lineup that featured none other than Gary Payton II, however, he was unable to finish this one out as he left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Even before tip-off the familiar signs of a weird game were already brewing.

The Bucks were able to duct tape together a strong enough effort as Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe helped Milwaukee power past the latter’s former franchise. Former Buck, Greg Monroe, provided the Suns with the kind of hard-nosed post presence that has been missing in Milwaukee since the trade two weeks ago.

The Suns were able to mount substantial runs in both the third and fourth quarters when the Bucks put the game on cruise control. It was an ugly, forgettable win, but starting off the road trip with an ugly win is a heck of a lot better than starting it with what would have been an even uglier loss.

Three Observations

Bledose was booed by the Phoenix faithful every time he touched the ball, but being the professional he is, he did not let it get to him. Okay maybe going six of 13 from the free throw line does not accurately reflect that, but we can chalk the poor free throw night up to tired legs; Bledsoe was on the court for 45 of the 53 minutes. Number six cranked up his scrappiness on offensive rebounds and loose balls and earned more hustle points against his former team tonight than he had with them in three games this season. A great example came with one minute left in the fourth quarter when Bledsoe knocked the ball loose off Devin Booker’s leg. Bledsoe’s former teammate had no chance of getting past him in that moment. Bledsoe finished with 30 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and seven turnovers (hey what’s up triple 7 casino advertisements at Talking Stick Resort Arena). His poor shooting continued, however, as his true shooting percentage was a measly 47.3 percent on the night.

With a lineup that was missing Antetokounmpo, we were all prepared for Khris Middleton to have the utmost freedom within the offensive flow. Middleton dropped his second 40 point game of the season and was one rebound shy of recording a double-double. In the shooting department, Khash hoisted up 26 shots and converted on 53.8 percent of them. In the past few weeks we have seen the offensive version of Middleton that we have been expecting. He continued to be unafraid of the moment and had no qualms having the ball as the game came to a close. Oh yeah, he also had this beauty of dunk:

It was good to see Moose on a basketball court again and even better to see that he is excelling in his larger role with the Suns. Monroe was in full revenge game mode as he finished with 22 points and a game high 15 rebounds as he had his way with both Thon Maker and Joel Bolomboy. Milwaukee fans were treated to Monroe’s emphatic, “And one!” catch phrase once again. Just like you never really know when the last time your parents picked you up was, this might be the last time our ears were graced with Monroe’s mating call. Let us cherish it forever.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Gary Payton II and Marquese Chriss both wear the number zero and were in the starting lineup for their respective teams. When was the last time each team had a number zero in their starting lineups?
  • Thon Maker had his most productive night of the year scoring 16 points on nearly 55 percent shooting while securing eight rebounds. Unfortunately his propensity to foul persisted and he exited the game prematurely.
  • Joel Bolomboy made his debut, and with Thon fouling out, he played all of the over time period. He was good in altering shots and grabbing rebounds when those were needed the most.
  • Sterling Brown and Tyson Chandler got into a bit of a tussle that climaxed with the two jawing at each other. Way to not back down from the 17 year veteran, rookie!
  • The Suns got into the giving mood a little early this year as they committed 29 turnovers. DeAndre Liggins was being a pest, as usual. He forced big turnovers down the homestretch and his only two points of the night ended up being the two that put the Bucks ahead for good.
  • Four Bucks players played 40+ minutes tonight. Three starters (Bledsoe, Middleton, and Malcolm Brogdon) and one reserve (Liggins).
  • For the first time all year the Bucks played in a game that featured a jersey ripping. The space under the back numbers on T.J. Warren‘s jersey ripped open after Liggins grabbed the back of the jersey on a breakaway layup.
  • Monday night’s fourth quarter saw the Washington Wizards second unit put the game out of reach for the Bucks. Without star scorer Devin Booker, the Suns started the fourth quarter on a 12-0 run that ended with them leading by three with eight minutes remaining. Yeesh.
  • Speaking of Devin Booker, his three to send the game to overtime brings up an interesting end of game strategy argument. Do you foul your opponent before they can even get a potential tying three-point shot off?
  • The drama queen in me loves the buzzer beater shot, but the Bucks fan in me needs all the assurance I can get that the game result won’t be in jeopardy. Foul the man next time.
  • Ah. Maybe fatigue got the best of the Bucks in the waning seconds of the game so much so that fouling on the inbound was too much to ask for? I don’t know, that’s a big end of game blunder.
  • Of course the first weeknight Pacific time zone game went to over time, of course.
  • The Bucks were out-rebounded by a 60-42 margin last night and that still feels like not wide enough of a difference.
  • Miss you, Giannis