There are lots of reasons to forget Friday’s Los Angeles Lakers game. Khris Middleton bricking every shot in existence. Giannis Antetokounmpo freakily falling on Avery Bradley. The Milwaukee Bucks losing. All valid reasons, and thankfully the frequent NBA schedule always offers us another game to push bad memories from the mind. Today, that game is against the Phoenix Suns.
Milwaukee’s 113-103 loss against the Lakers wasn’t due to lack of effort from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who posted 32 points, 11 boards and six assists. His teammates though, they were a different story. Khris Middleton mustered only 12 points on 19 shots, and Eric Bledsoe had 11 on 13 scoring attempts. The Lakers defense, particularly inside the arc, was suffocating against the Bucks when they tried to get inside. Phoenix doesn’t have nearly the same defensive reputation, and with a likely uptick from their 27.9% from deep, Sunday’s contest should hopefully be a more victorious affair.
It will be tougher sledding with Giannis Antetokounmo doubtful due to left knee soreness, likely related to the precautionary MRI he had on Saturday. George Hill is also questionable and D.J. Wilson is doubtful.
Player to Watch: Donte DiVincenzo
Donte has become an even more integral part of Milwaukee’s offensive output since George Hill went out with his groin contusion. He had 17 against the Lakers, and looked like one of the team’s top three players at points. That was also coming off tying a career-high 19 points against Indiana. His impressive finishing 60%+ over the course of this season has kept his efficiency afloat while his 3-point jumper waffles at points. If he’s granted the task of guarding Devin Booker, containing the wiry former Kentucky Wildcat will be essential.
Phoenix must have been overjoyed to finally tally a win after dropping four straight. They took down the Portland Trailblazers 127-117 as Aron Baynes put up *rubs eyes and drops glasses in cleaning solution for 24 hours straight* 37 points and 16 rebounds. Holy moly, I genuinely just looked that up and still can’t believe it was a thing. I had to look up the highlights right away to confirm it. Folks, he hits a freaking step-back triple in Damian Lillard’s face!
But I digress. Phoenix is likely too far out of the West Playoff race at this point to make it in, but they’ve at least shown some growth in the first year under Monty Williams and a few more veterans around to shore up their gaps. They are middle of the road in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency, and don’t favor any one area of the floor for their shot diet. Look for Devin Booker to try and kill Milwaukee from midrange. Last time these two teams met, Milwaukee had a wire-to-wire win.
The Suns are without one of their promising young players, Kelly Oubre Jr., who tore his meniscus. They will also be missing Deandre Ayton, Frank Kaminsky and their rookie, Cameron Johnson.
Player to Watch: Aron Baynes
Baynes has been soundly dunked upon by Giannis several times in his career, but as the above highlight tape shows, he’s also a quite capable pick-and-pop big. That prototype can hurt this Milwaukee defense if Baynes has a capable dancing partner among Phoenix’s guards. Ricky Rubio, who was out in the first matchup, fits the bill. We’ll see if he ever does enough damage to force Bud into making some defensive tweaks.
Game 64: Against Phoenix, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)