It only took a few minutes in the first quarter to foreshadow how the Bucks/Suns tilt would end up playing out.
Long story short, the Phoenix Suns outscored the Bucks 42-28 in the opening frame which proved to be too big of a hole for the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Bucks to climb out of. Even with the terrible defensive performance, Milwaukee still won the last three-quarters of the game.
Credit to the Phoenix Suns for pushing the pace and getting a ton of open looks from deep and cashing in on them, and credit to the Bucks for clawing their way back into it and making it a game.
Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe both stepped up offensively without Giannis in there.
Middleton started off 0-of-7 from the field but caught fire after the miserable start. He ended up playing 35 minutes and dropped 39 points on 13-of-26 shooting. His three-point jumper was way off, but he was still able to pirouette his way into the paint for easy buckets and hitting his patented mid-range j’s. Whenever he went to the bench, the Bucks offensive production stumbled and the Suns would continue to build on an already big lead. As for point guard Eric Bledsoe, his offensive performance was rock solid for the most part. He scored 28 points and dished out seven assists while converting on 12-of-19 shots from the field and 2-of-4 from downtown. Bledsoe and Middleton were the only Bucks showing signs of life offensively in the first half. Bledsoe did commit four bad turnovers in the loss, but he was constantly looking to push the pace and was in control. He had a couple of strong finishes in the paint and some beautiful drive and kick dimes, too.
Khris Middleton with a game-high 39 points tonight. pic.twitter.com/TWYcROwtGH— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 9, 2020
Donte DiVincenzo’s game is blossoming before our eyes.
Aside from Donte, the Bucks got zero offensive production from their bench mob. He came off the bench to contribute 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 29 minutes. He and Marvin Williams were the only players to finish with a positive plus-minus for Milwaukee. Donte’s defense was fantastic and his anticipation in the passing lanes is already elite for a second-year player. But, what has impressed me the most, is his ability to drive and finish in traffic. He had a handful of beautiful dribble-drives into the lane that he finished strong through contact. Remember the Donte of a few months ago that would go up to finish and chuck up a brick? Yeah, me neither. It seems like every game we talk about how great Donte has been, but he has earned the praise. I asked coach Budenholzer before the game about DiVincenzo’s impact on both ends of the floor this season now that he is fully healthy...here’s what coach told me.
Now fully healthy, Donte DiVincenzo has been elite defensively while his offensive game has blossomed the last few weeks. Here's what Coach Bud had to say when I asked him about the impact DDV has had this season. pic.twitter.com/rBDvXAuHy7— Andrew (@AndrewG_NBA) March 8, 2020
The Suns are still hitting three-pointers as you are reading this.
Jeez Louise...I mean, talk about firing on all cylinders early. The Suns moved the ball around the court swiftly and remained one pass ahead of the Bucks defensive rotations all afternoon. It started with Aron Baynes knocking down two threes before Ricky Rubio got in on the fun from deep. You know it is not your night when he is hitting long-range jumpers. The Suns converted on seemingly all of their open shots from deep, and even the ones that were contested went in. While Milwaukee’s defense was better in the second half, the damage was already done in the first as Phoenix made 13 three-pointers. Overall, they ended up making 19 and shot 55.3% from the field. Also, watching Devin Booker live is a treat. He operates so smooth offensively, I don’t think any of his makes ended up hitting the rim. He 36 points on 13-of-17 shooting. He is a human flamethrower.
- Brook Lopez was solid offensively as he scored 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting but defensively was another story. He lost Aron Baynes multiple times throughout the loss which led to open looks from deep. Even the shots Lopez contested ended up being makes, too. It was just that kind of game.
- Mikal Bridges totally tipped the scale in the Suns’ favor yesterday. His performance on both ends of the floor deserves a ton of credit. Another solid young player that the 76ers gave up in search of some sweetened assets.