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Bucks vs. Suns Preview: Bucks hoping for repeat performance against Phoenix

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After a disappointing Utah loss, Milwaukee hopes a poor Phoenix team provides an antidote

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee’s return from the All-Star break proved less inspiring than many in the fanbase and team would’ve liked, dropping a 109-95 contest to the Utah Jazz. They’ll hope to steer back to the tracks today against the Phoenix Suns, a team whom they decimated just a few weeks ago, 137-112.

Bucks Update

The feel-good vibes of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s first All-Star performance fizzled out quickly with the Bucks’ game against Utah, as a distressingly familiar crop of issues surfaced. This time, it wasn’t Utah working the corners like a punching bag, instead they shoveled the ball repeatedly inside on pick-and-rolls as the Bucks were unable to cover rolling big men or deter Gordon Hayward from penetrating to the rim for monster jams against Giannis and Thon Maker.

Any silver lining lies in Giannis’ stat line, where he poured in 33 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, five steals and a block on a night when his All-Star sheen shone through on a court whereby the rest of the Bucks’ team looked to still be enjoying their elongated break. Michael Beasley provided another scoring punch, dropping 22 points and creating offense when the Jazz’s claustrophobic defense prevented Milwaukee from doing much else.

Mirza Teletovic had another of Kidd’s curious DNP-Coach’s Decision games, presumably because Beasley had it going. Still, nearly every metric seems to indicate Teletovic has been a net positive when on the court this season, with the two-man lineup of Telly and Giannis at +2.7 per game. Qualitatively, his three-point presence also makes sense with Giannis. His astronomical three-point attempt rate per minute provides a hyper spacer next to Giannis, a strategy only heightened if Thon is picking-and-popping at center. Phoenix doesn’t have a bruising four like Derrick Favors, so here’s hoping Teletovic gets another redemption game against his former squad. He rang up 19 points in their last contest.

Milwaukee obliterated Phoenix the last time they played, with Giannis scoring 30 and getting significant contributions from the likes of Henson, Monroe, Brogdon and Teletovic. Without a Devin Booker flamethrower performance, the game would’ve looked even more lopsided.

Victory against the Suns several weeks ago may’ve snapped a five-game losing streak, but it didn’t usher in any new optimism after Milwaukee dropped the next two games to the Heat and Lakers. A win today probably shouldn’t either given Phoenix’s poo-poo season thus far, but it is important given their next four are against Cleveland, Denver, Clippers and Raptors.

No injuries to report, but Milwaukee did make the signing of Axel Toupane to a 10-day contract official yesterday, so there’s some transaction wire excitement for you.

Suns Update

Phoenix continues to be one of the worst teams in the league, but they did just narrowly lose to the Chicago Bulls in overtime, which probably says more about the Bulls than it does the Suns. Phoenix fell 128-121 in the end, despite 27 points from Devin Booker and 17 points each from T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss and Eric Bledsoe.

Phoenix has remained a similar team from the outset this season, with a porous defense (ranked 27th now), playing at a fast pace (third-fastest in NBA) that inspires the fourth-highest turnover percentage in the league. Offensively, they are juiced by the ball handling of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, but only shoot 23.3 threes per game, good for 24th in the league.

Every one of those key statistics should have the Bucks frothing at the gums, and their deficiencies played right into the Bucks hands last game. The Bucks had a whopping 74 points in the paint that game, outscoring them by 32 in that area. On paper, this is a game Milwaukee should thrive in once again. Phoenix’s sixth-ranked offensive rebounding percentage (26.4%) is one positive outlier for Phoenix’s statistical makeup. It hurt Milwaukee last time, where Phoenix got 14 offensive boards to Milwaukee’s nine.

Phoenix is just missing Dragan Bender today, and won’t have PJ Tucker, whom they traded to the Toronto Raptors during the trade deadline.