Bittersweet Victory: Bucks 96 – Suns 94

Milwaukee Bucks 96 FinalRecap | Box Score 94 Phoenix Suns
Jabari Parker, SF 15 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -2Eight points, three boards, a couple free throws – none of it really matters. Parker was carried off in the third quarter after suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury on a drive to the hoop. As you can see, his knee buckles inward without any contact, which is never, ever a good thing. The Bucks diagnosed Parker with a sprained knee, but any potential further damage won’t be identified until he undergoes an MRI on Monday. I guess Parker’s on-court performance was B-worthy? But none of that is really important right now.

Larry Sanders, C 13 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -10

The NBA’s leader in fouls per-36 minutes picked up four in only 13 minutes, effectively ending his night before halftime. Sanders blew a couple shots in the paint early on and the foul issues prevented him from having any real impact.

Brandon Knight, PG 39 MIN | 7-18 FG | 6-6 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 20 PTS | +8

Knight hit a few timely shots throughout the game, none more so than the go-ahead runner with seven seconds to play, but it’s hard to ignore the seven turnovers. It seemed like nearly each of them came in carless fashion, especially his lazy, crosscourt pass with 1:30 to play that led to a wide open Isaiah Thomas three on the other end. Granted, Thomas missed the shot, but it was one of those plays that simply can’t happen at that point in the game. And on the ensuing possession, Knight dribbled out the shot clock and hoisted a pull up three that bounced off the rim. It’s tough to criticize a 20-7-4 performance, but this game wasn’t exactly a shining example for the “Brandon Knight is a true point guard” camp.

O.J. Mayo, SG 25 MIN | 3-4 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 12 PTS | -5

In seven December contests, Mayo has three games with two made three-pointers and four games with zero made three-pointers. Simply put, when he’s hitting his outside shots, he’s a much more effective player. That said, six turnovers in 25 minutes from a non-primary ball-handler is less than ideal, so that knocks him down to a B-.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 24 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -9

Giannis was quiet in this one, scoring only five points in the first half and sitting most of the fourth quarter as Milwaukee clawed back into the game. His jumper wasn’t falling, but he made a couple nice moves, including this assertive take on a Morris twin at the end of the second quarter. He exited the game at the 8:57 mark in the fourth quarter and didn’t come back until the final possession. The play eventually ended in Khris Middleton rattling home the buzzer-beating three-pointer, but it looked as though Giannis streaking to the rim for a lob may have been the first option. Either way, it worked.

Khris Middleton, PF 29 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +11

Middleton got off to a rough start, missing a couple shots early and committing a careless turnover that resulted in a clear path foul, but boy did he make up for it. He hit a tough turnaround at the 5:56 mark to bring the Bucks within three and, of course, drilled a difficult shot at the buzzer to give Milwaukee the win.

Zaza Pachulia, C 29 MIN | 6-9 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +9

Zaza was really, really good in this one from an offensive perspective. So good, in fact, that FS-Wisconsin’s Sidney Moncrief called him the best passing big man in the league. Sidney is never one to shy away from a hot take, but Pachulia really was at the top of his game, tying Jared Dudley with a game-high five assists. He also came up huge down the stretch, scoring eight straight points in less than three minutes late in the fourth quarter. His final basket, with 2:42 remaining, drew a sixth foul on Alex Len, though Zaza was unable to complete the three-point play.

Jerryd Bayless, PG 26 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +8

Bayless played a clean game, committing only one turnover and knocking down his lone three-point attempt. I recall one possession when he was caught watching the ball on defense and his man hit an open three, but other than that, he was relatively solid on the defensive end. Bayless has now scored 11 points in three straight games. We’ll see if The Streak continues Wednesday in Portland.

Kendall Marshall, PG 9 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -6

Marshall was mostly a non-factor in nine minutes, with his only basket coming on a Pachulia-assisted layup in the first quarter. He also contributed to the turnover fest – the Bucks had 21 as a team – committing two, one of which was an uncharacteristically careless cross-court pass that was easily picked off.

Jared Dudley, SG 31 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +6

This was arguably Dudley’s best game in a Bucks uniform, as he scored in double figures for the first time in nine games and only the second time all season. Nine of his 10 points came from beyond the arc, and his catch-and-shoot three with 28 seconds remaining gave the Bucks a one-point lead. Dudley checked in for Giannis with nine minutes to play in the fourth and never left, even picking up the assist on Middleton’s game-winner.

Jason Kidd

At first, it looked like this team had come out completely flat after Saturday’s big home win over the Clippers. The Bucks scored only 14 points in the first quarter and were stuck on four until the 4:52 mark. There was little movement on offense, particularly from the starting five, and the only reason Milwaukee wasn’t down 20 was because Phoenix was missing (and missing and missing) open shots (read: Gerald Green, 2-15 3Pt). The Bucks never gave in, however, even after Parker went down and it looked like any remaining energy had been sucked from the team. Kidd and his staff have to receive some of the credit for that. He also rode the hot hands in the fourth quarter, as he’s done time and again this season, and it paid off. The group that clawed back into the game and eventually grabbed the lead – Knight/Bayless/Dudley/Middleton/Zaza – featured only one starter.

Four Things We Saw

  1. Again, as inspiring a win as this was for Milwaukee, the bigger storyline will be the status of Parker’s knee injury. He was said to be in good spirits in the locker room after the game, but the extent of the damage won’t be known until after Monday’s MRI.
  2. Gerald Green entered the game shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc with 20 made threes in the month of December. He was 2-of-15 from three Monday. TWO-OF-FIFTEEN. At one point he was 0-of-11. Somewhere Antoine Walker shimmies in approval.
  3. The Bucks, who lead the league in points in the paint per game on the road, outscored the Suns 50-24 in the paint. That was due in large part to Milwaukee attempting only 16 three-pointers, compared to Phoenix’s 38.
  4. Giannis unintentionally saddled up and, for lack of a better term, rode Eric Bledsoe after a foul. Naturally, it was only a matter of time until this happened.

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