In a brilliant strategic move clearly designed to ensure the Milwaukee Bucks don’t peak too early this season, they took a strategic loss against the Phoenix Suns, 111-105. So I jest, but tonight was a sad affair across most of the Bucks’ roster as two impressive streaks came to an end tonight.
As expected, the Bucks' first back-to-back loss of the season will come at the hands of the Suns, who will also be the first team to beat them twice. Bucks blow 17-point fourth quarter lead in Utah and 16-point first half lead in Phoenix.— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) March 5, 2019
Milwaukee looked in control after the first quarter, with a steady scoring diet across the board to lead 31-20. Late in the second though, the Suns went on a run to make it just a 54-52 advantage for the Bucks. It stood neck and neck for much of the third, but a late flurry by the Bucks helped them stake a 82-76 lead before the final stanza. Unfortunately, the Bucks’ shooting woes just couldn’t be overcome and Milwaukee lost out in the end behind some clutch late shooting from Phoenix.
The Phoenix Suns did a surprisingly admirable job bottling Giannis up at the rim, “holding” him to just 21 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Repeatedly, the Suns were able to hack the ball away as he brought it up or repel him at the summit. Six turnovers isn’t ideal either. However, he found ways to affect the game in other ways, doing plenty of work finding his teammates, they often times just didn’t pay it off.
No one else on the roster was a supreme standout, and most of them struggled from the field. Eric Bledsoe, on his signing day, had a quiet 15 point evening, same for Malcolm Brogdon who shot his way to 19 points for the night on 7-12 shooting. Khris Middleton and Nikola Mirotic will jettison their shooting nights, 4-27 combined, from any recesses of their mind.
Devin Booker was well-contained by the Bucks’ defense most of the evening, holding him to 8-18 shooting for 22 points. Kelly Oubre Jr. was an athletic thorn in the Bucks’ side most of the night, going for 27 points with 13 boards too. DeAndre Ayton had 19 points and 12 rebounds, but I can’t for the life of me understand why he still only got 13 shots for the night.
Stat that Stood Out
Under no circumstances should the Phoenix Suns have been able to outscore the Milwaukee Bucks in the paint tonight, 50-44. Even with the Bucks getting to the free throw line plenty of times, the Suns allow the highest percentage of opponent shots at the rim and protect it at the sixth worst rate in the league. Too often, it felt as if the Bucks were settling for pull-up jumpers rather than trying to probe the interior and working from the inside out. There are myriad more factors, but the Bucks just didn’t have their shots falling. Shooting 55% at the rim, when you typically hit 67.4%, is tough to overcome.