The Milwaukee Bucks started off slow as the young Phoenix Suns got off shots from all over the court. In many ways this felt like the Chicago game, the system versus the dumb luck of youth, so when the Bucks came back swiftly on made threes, drives to the basket, and Giannis dunks it was like the universe correcting itself.
The Bucks came back, but the sweet shooting Suns would not go down without a fight. The teams exchanged lead changes in the second with the Bucks unable to gain the clear advantage. The Suns took the lead into the second half, 64-61, with five players in double figures, including 11 points for first overall pick DeAndre Ayton and 10 for not really a point guard Devin Booker. The Bucks countered with 10 for Khris Middleton and 18 for Giannis, all of his field goals coming on powerful dunks.
The Bucks reserves were ice cold from outside. Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, and Thon Maker missed their first 13 threes until Planet Pat finally knocked one down with minutes to spare in the half.
The Suns stayed hot coming out of the gates in the second half. Devin Booker showed off why he’s one of the scariest young guards in the league when he’s hot by scoring at will. The Suns also had help from motor man Richaun Holmes, who battled Giannis for boards in the paint.
Some nights defy the data. The Bucks came to play, and they played their way, but with the team shooting 7-31 from three in the third Mike Budenholzer ran out the white flag in Matthew Dellavedova.
Or so it seemed. These scrubs can play, and they’ve been getting minutes together in recent blowouts. Dellavedova might look like a rec league all-star, but he sets up his teammate as well as any backup and a lineup featuring Giannis, Ersan Ilyasova, Tony Snell, Delly, and Connaughton managed to come back on a bewildered Suns squad, cutting the lead to 91-90 going into the fourth.
These Bucks will not go away. Giannis continued to be the best player in the world, and Bledsoe did what he’s done; transformed into Big Time Bledsoe when the team needed him the most. Bledsoe locked down on Devin Booker, finally cooling the hotshot when it mattered most.
And so it was that the Bucks and Suns stood tied at 114 with 41 seconds to go. Khris Middleton went up, and the ball skittered out of his hands. Giannis spun and the ball careened off the rim. Then Jamal Crawford calmly juked at midrange and put up the shot Coach Mike always wanted him to take.
The Bucks had one more shot and it was what Coach wanted too. Khris Middleton launched a three that swished through in a final confirmation of mean reversion, but it was all too late. The game ended before the ball left his hands.
The Suns won at the FiServ. 116-114. Tonight fortune beat preparation. It was just that kind of night.
Stat That Stood Out
The Bucks missed more threes than the Suns made tonight. The system wants players to shoot, but tonight we shot ourselves in the foot. This was a trust the process moment for the fandom, and while the process is strong, the tug towards fear is strong as well.
The Bucks made one more three on the night than the Suns, but it took 18 more shots to get there. 34 misses, and most of them shots that we want players to take. This wasn’t a bad loss, not a night that you take home to study. We played the right way, but talented youth and crafty vets pulled off just enough to beat us.
Some days you take the L and move on. Thankfully, there’s another game against the Spurs tomorrow.