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Bucks vs. Suns Preview: Milwaukee heads to the desert hoping for elusive win against Phoenix

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After a close loss against Denver, Milwaukee faces a Suns team fresh off beating the Kings

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

After a narrow loss in the mile-high city last night to the Nuggets, 121-117, Milwaukee hopes to buck its poor back-to-back trend this year when they travel to Phoenix tonight. The Suns beat Sacramento last night, staving off a Boogie Cousins triple-double to win 105-103.

Bucks Update

Last night’s game featured an offensive explosion from both teams, and while it certainly wasn’t an epiphany, it did seem to help both Jabari and Giannis find their way again. Parker had 27 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block with Giannis kicking in 23 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get quite enough scoring punch help their bench, as the only other scorer in double digits was John Henson, who got the start and scored 16 points and played nearly 19 straight minutes in the second half after Thon Maker got the surprise start in the third quarter. Milwaukee shot a stifling 54.2% on the night, but turned the ball over in droves again, allowing Denver to score 24 points off 18 turnovers. Lastly, Denver got to the line a whopping 44 times, with Milwaukee doubling up the Nuggets’ foul total with 26 overall.

It may’ve been a loss, but at least it wasn’t a dispiriting one for a Bucks team that’s been getting walloped regardless of who they face. The Nuggets’ bottom five defense proved an efficient ailment for the Bucks’ stars to get back on track, and Phoenix’s similarly 26th ranked defense is in a similar situation.

The Bucks are merely 2-8 on back-to-back so far this season, with both of those wins coming against the hapless Bulls. Scoring points against Denver was at least a semblance of a step forward, but they also allowed the Nuggets’ to run rampant offensively. They will want to stanch the bleeding tonight.

Suns Update

Phoenix delivered their 16th win of the season last night against Sacramento, but they’re still ranked last in the Western Conference, just one win behind the Los Angeles Lakers. Devin Booker scored 33 points for Phoenix, with Eric Bledsoe chipping in 20 and bunch-scorer T.J. Warren adding 21.

The Suns are ranked 21st in offensive rating (104.0), and attempt the exact same number of threes (23.2) per game that Milwaukee does. Fortunately, their squad doesn’t convert at Milwaukee’s rate, hitting just 34.6% of their attempts. Most of that is due to a suspect shooting backcourt, sans Devin Booker, whose three-point percentage is up to 36.4% after shooting just 34.3% last year. Both Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are shooting under 35%, and their young frontcourt of T.J. Warren (27.4%), Marquese Chriss (30.5%) and Dragan Bender (32.1%) are still getting their bearings from deep.

Like Denver, Phoenix gets to the line quite frequently though, ranked second in the league behind the Nuggets with 26 attempts from the charity stripe per game. Phoenix also likes to get out and run on the break, leading the league in percentage of points off turnovers (17.2%) and second in percentage of fast break points scored (17.4%). Phoenix leads the league in percentage of their field goals made that are unassisted, so Milwaukee will have to be ready for plenty of one-on-one defense tonight. Their last ranked assist percentage would seem to play into Milwaukee’s hands without a bevy of assists that create more stress on the Bucks’ aggressive scheme.

Milwaukee had its hands full with Nikola Jokic’s versatility last night, but their frontcourt defenders should have a much more relaxing night trying to contain the aged Tyson Chandler and springy but underdeveloped Chriss.

Dragan Bender isn’t expected to play for Phoenix, and Milwaukee favorite Jared Dudley missed the last two games with an illness and it’s unclear if he will play tonight yet or not.