It has been a while since the Milwaukee Bucks have won a game, and facing off against the bottom-rung Phoenix Suns on the last stop of a three game road trip, the team was in dire need of a victory. As it happens, the Bucks can beat a bad team, and that’s exactly what happened in Saturday’s 137-112 blowout against Phoenix.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks’ winning effort with 30 points (12/20 FG) / 12 rebounds / 6 assists / 4 blocks, and a game-high +34 on the night. Jabari Parker was slightly quieter (18 points / 9 rebounds), but had a number of impressive baskets at the rim, and the Bucks’ supporting cast showed up in full-force tonight (Mirza Teletovic, 19 points; John Henson, 15 points; Greg Monroe, 13 points; Malcolm Brogdon, 13 points).
For the Suns, Devin Booker (31 points, 5/8 3PT) was on fire in the first half but foul trouble forced him to take a step back, and while rookie Marquese Chriss (27 points) stepped up his game, few of his Phoenix teammates answered the call, leading to the blowout. The Suns allowed Milwaukee to shoot 63.4% from the field, largely due to open driving lanes and subpar rim protection.
Giannis was positively possessed in the first quarter, attacking the rim on offense and protecting it on defense. His aggressiveness was a massive improvement from his virtual no-show against Utah, and his attitude rubbed off on his teammates, as the Bucks were forcing turnovers and drawing fouls to fuel a 45-25 opening period. While Giannis was the big story in the first half (22 points on 10/13 shooting), he was adequately supported by Telly (13 points, 2/2 3PT), Henson (10 points), and Jabari (10 points)
Despite building a considerable lead in the first half, the Bucks offense couldn't stay out of their own way and committed a number of silly turnovers, usually the result of an errant pass. This gave Phoenix enough opportunities to find something to get going, and boy did Devin Booker get going (27 first half points, including 5/7 3PT).
The second half was very much a continuation of the first, as Milwaukee's athleticism regularly outpaced the Suns, making the Phoenix defense look tired. Greg Monroe was a regular resident in the restricted area, bumping and bullying any Sun who defended him in the post. Still, Milwaukee made enough mistakes that resulted in Phoenix buckets, carrying a 101-89 lead into the 4th.
A flurry of Phoenix turnovers helped the Bucks get easy enough looks to build a 20-point lead within 3 minutes. The Bucks offense kept up the pressure and avoided reopening any Windows for the Suns, and their refusal to relent resulted in a hefty late-game lead. Garbage time ensued for the final 3 minutes, and the Bucks finally snapped their losing streak.
Thoughts & Tidbits
Phoenix fouls a LOT. And it isn't that they're overly-aggressive, or dirty, or constantly in-your-face...they're just kind of bad on defense. Lots of holds and blocks that most teams don’t have to worry about on a regular basis.
Devin Booker is the type of shooter who puts one up and it's just assumed that it's going in. He might not be a great player overall, but he's a spectacular shooter.
I don't know how to defend a fast break with one defender if Giannis and Jabari are coming down the floor together. It's nearly always an emphatic bucket.
It started last night against Denver, but it almost looks like Jabari has some confidence on offense, to the point of expressing positive emotions when he does something cool, especially an and-1.
John Henson seems to be at the start of one of those multi-game stretches where he looks REALLY good on offense. Turnovers aside, when his lefty hook is dialed in, he looks like a bonafide low post scoring specialist.
P.J. Tucker probably owns a leather wallet with "Bad Motherf----r" on the back; he's scrappy, tough and versatile, and provided some of the stoutest post defense of any Phoenix player. He ended the game with seven steals, which still somehow felt too low for his level of defensive activity.
Giannis continues to shoot open threes. This is a good thing! He's missing them with some regularity (0/3 tonight), but the confidence in the shot is good to see.
Going into the game, I had actually forgotten that Brandon Knight was still in Phoenix. Coming out of the game, I don't know how long I'll retain the knowledge that Brandon Knight is still in Phoenix.
Giannis remained on the floor despite the game being out of reach, and there wasn't any clear reason for it. Perhaps it's because the team has three days' rest before their next game, or Giannis wanted to pad his assist totals, but his presence was notable.
The Bucks have concluded their road trip and will return to Milwaukee for a matchup with the Miami Heat...and are set to be joined by Khris Middleton for the first time this season! Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert will also likely be available, which is neat, but Middleton is coming back to the court only four months after tearing his hamstring off of the leg bone. It’s incredible to see him back in action so soon, and we’re all excited to see what he can do!