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Rapid Recap: Bucks 116, Suns 104

With tonight’s win, the Milwaukee Bucks officially clinched a playoff berth, the first team to do so this season.

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Pi Day to all who celebrate. On this most auspicious of occasions, the Milwaukee Bucks carved a few slices for themselves by besting the Phoenix Suns, 116-104. Box Score

Despite missing both Khris Middleton and Grayson Allen, the Bucks took control of the game early by attacking the rim while Phoenix (who were without Kevin Durant still) settled for several midrange jumpers and floaters. Milwaukee then hit a cold stretch on offense, and the Suns worked their way back into things and the first quarter ended much closer with Milwaukee leading 29-24. Against the Suns’ reserves, Milwaukee opened their lead up again and kept applying pressure on the rim to take a 57-48 lead into halftime.

Milwaukee leaned further and further into its size advantage as the game wore on, trying to wear the Suns down. Phoenix struggled to contain the Bucks’ physicality, but the Suns made hay as Devin Booker put in 17 points to stay within striking distance as the fourth quarter started with a 85-84 Milwaukee advantage. A pair of Cam Payne threes quickly reclaimed the lead for Phoenix during the final period, and once again the Bucks found themselves in a tight – and chippy – contest on the road in the Western Conference.

Milwaukee’s veterans came through in crunch time as the lead vacillated and the Suns pushed their way back into the game. The crunch time lineup of Giannis-Jrue-Brook-Jae-Joe squeezed the Phoenix offense at every turn and the Bucks continued riding their significant size advantage to maintain command of the contest.

Stat That Stood Out

This game marked a neat point of divergence for Milwaukee’s regular season record. At 49-19, a win would bring them to the 50-win mark while keeping their tally in the loss column in the teens. Had the game gone the other way, the Bucks would still have met the “40 wins before 20 losses” standard applied by Phil Jackson that differentiates contenders and pretenders, but the chance to beat that by double-digit victories would have been lost.

Of course, when faced with those two outcomes, the Bucks ripped off a 24-6 run during the tightest portion of the fourth quarter. Now, at 50-19, the Bucks are the first team to make it past the 50-win plateau this season, and still own the best record in the league by virtue of winning two out of their last three, including tonight’s second game of a back-to-back. Gritty stuff from our Milwaukee Bucks, who continue to prove that they have earned our trust.

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