Before last season, the Milwaukee Bucks had lost 24 straight games in Phoenix. But the stars aligned, the Suns were terrible and the Bucks were just good enough to pull out a four point victory in Phoenix last year. But the Suns seem to be good again, the Bucks are definitely bad again and it’s a new season. Does a new streak start now?
What to Watch For: Bucks
Everyone is varying levels of unhappy, judging from a few stories in the Journal-Sentinel lately. Veterans Luke Ridnour, OJ Mayo and Caron Butler have had to answer questions about playing time in the past week, something surely none of them expected before this season. All three were brought in to have extensive, if not starring, roles.
Ridnour was going to be the point guard that worked either side-by-side or directly behind Brandon Knight as he grew into the position. Mayo was going to be Milwaukee’s leading scorer and Butler was going to absorb the majority of the small forward minutes while youngsters Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo adjusted to the NBA life.
Instead, none of the vets averaged 30 minutes per game in December and both Ridnour and Butler dealt with multiple DNP-CDs. But they’ve all found themselves kind of back in the rotation now and they’ll likely do everything they can to stay there.
What to Watch For: Suns
If the Bucks are the negative surprise of the season, the Suns are the positive surprise. Whereas the Bucks are a terrible team that was supposed to be an average team, the Suns are an average team that was supposed to be terrible. The biggest plus for Phoenix has been the steady play of the combination of guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Suns lineups that include both guards are a net positive of 8.1 per 100 minutes. Bledsoe has looked like a legitimate All-Star guard and Dragic is providing great value as a slashing and shooting combo guard. He’s like Knight, but better at setting up his teammates and MUCH better as a shooter.
Bledose is questionable against the Bucks, but the Suns boast a group that’s playing with a ton of energy for first year coach Jeff Hornacek. Channing Frye has rebounded from a heart problem that cost him last season and reemerge as an elite shooting big man. The Suns are the type of team that could overwhelm Milwaukee simply with intense energy and desire.
Time – 8:00 p.m. CST
TV – FS Wisconsin (local)
Radio – 620 WTMJ
Bucks: John Henson (ankle; out), Zaza Pachulia (foot; out), Carlos Delfino (foot surgery; out)
Suns: Eric Bledsoe (knee; questionable), Alex Len (ankle; out), Emeka Okafor (back; out)
PG Brandon Knight
SG Luke Ridnour
SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
PF Ersan Ilyasova
C Larry Sanders
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Gerald Green
SF: P.J. Tucker
PF: Miles Plumlee
C: Channing Frye
Jeremy’s For Recreational Purposes Only Prediction (aka Betsketball)
Line: Suns -8.5
I hate gambling. I’m terrible at picking. Don’t trust me, ever.
Suns -8.5, over 198.5
Record: 19-23 (7-14 ATS and 12-9 over/under)
Choose the Form of the Destroyer: Gerald Green
This is what Gerald Green does.
He’s had a rocky career. Burst onto the scene out of high school. Wasn’t very good in Boston, was traded to Minnesota where he both won the dunk contest and lost the organization’s faith. He then failed to capitalize on opportunities in Houston and Dallas and was so poorly regarded league wide that, despite his incredible athleticism, he was out of the league for two seasons. After a few summer league stints and time overseas, he caught back on with the Nets. He played well enough to earn a three year deal from the Pacers, but was bad enough in his one season in Indiana that he was traded over the summer to Phoenix, where he’s now playing well.
Bottom line: He’s incredibly talented, but doesn’t make the best use of those talents. He could have a big night on any night and he’s always someone to watch, simply for his crazy dunking ability.