Too much Dragic for the Bucks. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Too much Dragic for the Bucks. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns 126 Final
Recap | Box Score
117 Milwaukee Bucks
Ersan Ilyasova, PF Shot Chart 33 MIN | 7-15 FG | 10-10 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 27 PTS | -15This was unquestionably his finest offensive game since a 29-point explosion just over two weeks ago. His numbers were helped a great deal by his 10 free throws and those 10 attempts were the first time he’d hit that number since March 31 of 2012. So the offensive end was kind to Ers.

Defense was another story. Milwaukee struggled to cut leads under five points all night, largely because Ers was either getting beaten in the post or on the perimeter where he was reaching and failing to keep up with any of the forwards he was tasked with defending. Also, where’s the rebounds, Ers? The low total in the board category may owe a bit to perimeter oriented Phoenix fours who would rather pop than roll after picks, but he’s got to be more effective.

Khris Middleton, PF Shot Chart 34 MIN | 6-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | 0He was part of a minor turnover barrage late in the game for Milwaukee, with a terrible pass to a clearly covered John Henson rolling towards the hoop after a swing pass, but other than that, Middleton was effective on offense in his usual jump-shooting role. No one on the Bucks had much of a night defensively trying to stick with Phoenix’s up-tempo style and impressive pick and roll/pop game.

John Henson, C Shot Chart 22 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -5His minutes evaporated when an ailing Larry Sanders productively battled back his flu-like symptoms and Ilyasova’s shots continued to find the bottom of the net. He wasn’t bad and a lineup with Sanders/Henson/Middleton/Giannis/Knight shined brightly, if briefly.

Brandon Knight, PG Shot Chart 38 MIN | 6-15 FG | 11-11 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 24 PTS | -10He made only one of seven attempts away from the basket … so it was a good thing Knight kept putting his head down and weaving through the Suns defense on his way to the basket, where he made five of eight shots and drew enough contact to make 11-11 free throws. Knight keeps playing well. He’s a shining beacon of light, even if he’s not capable of directing that light or an NBA offense just yet.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG Shot Chart 25 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -16Giannis has been lingering between mediocre and average of late, but this performance was closer to the average side of things. He continues to look like he’s getting more comfortable, even when he isn’t making a great deal of highlight plays. Shooting guard has been a tough duty for him defensively, though.

Larry Sanders, C Shot Chart 33 MIN | 7-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -4I didn’t speak with or see Sanders before the game, but I’m told he didn’t look well. Fox Sports reporter Andrew Gruman painted a grim picture of his predicament in the locker room, so I was skeptical that he’d play much at all, much less play effectively. But Sanders had an energy we hadn’t seen in a while, as evidenced by at least one tip dunk and some of his usual blocked shots. He wasn’t much of a match for Groan Dragic in pick and roll scenarios, but few big men have been this season.

Nate Wolters, PG Shot Chart 19 MIN | 3-8 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +2He was finally back in the pre-garbage time rotation and the rookie guard made the most of it. Milwaukee’s offense seemed to move well when he was directing it and he got into the paint and to the rim a few times where he was able to finish. Getting into the paint and shooting floaters is never going to be a consistently high percentage play, so it is absolutely critical that Wolters develops a 3-point shot. He doesn’t even look to shoot outside, but if he can play well without doing that, it’s fun to think maybe he’ll play betterif he can ever add that shot to his game.

O.J. Mayo, SG Shot Chart DNP ILLNESS MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | Flu.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | It’s cruel to leave a dog, much less a man in a doghouse in this weather. Hopefully the Bucks find a destination for him soon.

Larry DrewHe answered some questions about pace after the game with comments about how Milwaukee needed to keep games out of the 100s, which seemed quite a contrast to his thoughts before the season on how quickly the Bucks needed to play. He still wants to run when the opportunity presents itself, but this group has apparently flexed him into some new ideas. He remarked on controlling the rhythm and tempo and how important it was. This one got away from them quick, as the Suns established the speed and ran the Bucks out of the game over time.

Two Things We Saw

  1. Sector Seven was heckling Gerald Green after he picked up a technical foul with 6:34 to play in the third. It didn’t bother him and he finished with 23 points. After one three he put three fingers up near his ear and directed them towards Sector Seven, who then responded with extensive “Gerrr-Alllld” chants. It was all quite fun. I’d say he had the last laugh.
  2. Milwaukee wasn’t embarrassed in this game, despite facing a 20-plus point deficit in the first half. The Bucks kept fighting and were able to cut the lead down to seven with 4:52 to play. Milwaukee was never within single digits in the second half of its past two games, so that was quite an accomplishment. It’s the little things.