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Phoenix Suns outlast Milwaukee Bucks 126-117 as Goran Dragic takes over late

Goran Dragic is an All-Star.
Goran Dragic is an All-Star.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Summing it Up

The Suns didn't make it easy on themselves, but they still managed to beat the Bucks 126-117. Goran Dragic made one final push for All-Star selection by taking over and single-handedly putting the Bucks away in the final few minutes of the fourth, scoring 13 straight points for the Suns. Half of those points came after his shooting elbow swelled to the size of a softball falling a nasty fall.

Telling the Story

The Bucks got off to a slow start, while Miles Plumlee looked to show the NBA made a mistake not including him on the Rising Stars roster. Plumlee scored at the rim on the Suns' first possession, then rebounded a missed shot by P.J. Tucker and kicked it out to Goran Dragic for a 3-pointer. A bucket, a rebound and an assist in less than a minute-and-a-half is not too shabby.

The two teams traded runs all night, with Phoenix building up a nice lead and then letting Milwaukee cut into the deficit. The Suns led 9-3, 20-11 and 28-19 at different points in the first quarter, but the Bucks got back into it after every Phoenix run.

After one, Dragic, Channing Frye and Gerald Green led the Bucks 21-19 with seven apiece, while the rest of the Suns chipped in seven more.

The Suns scored the first four points on the second quarter, stretching the lead to 32-19, but again Milwaukee cut the lead down to five after scoring the next eight points. However, the Suns responded and took over the game, dominating the next eight minutes of play and outscoring the Bucks 28-15. Instead of stomping on their throats, the Suns allowed the Bucks to go on an 8-2 run to close out the half an cut the lead to 12.

At the half, Dragic, Frye and Marcus Morris had scored 40 points on just 20 shots. For those who don't like math, that's 2 points per shot attempt. That's pretty good.

Brandon Knight, who had a big game against the Suns in the team's first meeting, went off again and kept the Bucks in the game with 16 points on 5-8 shooting. However, as a team Milwaukee was shooting 34 percent compared to 54 percent for the Suns.

The third quarter belonged to the Bucks... and the whistles. The Bucks were aggressive and got call after call, getting to the line 15 times in the period. Gerald Green got so frustrated with the officiating and let the refs know it, getting T'd up midway through the quarter. The Bucks fans decided to have some fun and started chanting "GEEEERRRAAALLLDDD ... GEEEERRRAAALLLDDD ..." Gerald responded with the next eight points for the Suns and 11 of the next 12. I'd say that chant backfired. Even with the Green explosion, the Bucks continued to outplay the Suns and won the quarter 34-29. They got to the line and gained confidence, an then jumpers began to fall. Knight continued to torch the Suns and Larry Sanders joined him, with each of them scoring eight points in the period and Milwaukee cutting the lead to just seven at 91-84.

Goran Dragic sat on the bench for the first half of the fourth quarter, and the Suns lead fluctuated back and forth between as many as 10 points to as few as five. The highlight of the stretch was rookie center Alex Len getting back to back dunks, the first one an and-one off a beautiful pass by Ish Smith and the second a thunderous tip-slam.

Dragic checked back in at the 6:25 mark with a 105-97 lead. The two teams bounced back and forth, with Milwaukee in striking distance, until Dragic took over. The Dragon hit a 3-pointer at the 4:02 mark, then took it to the basket and was taken down hard by Larry Sanders. Dragic was down for a while before finally getting up, but he stayed in the game following a timeout and hit his free-throws ... with a shooting elbow the size of a softball as described by Suns digital reporter Matt Peterson. Dragic hit another three on the following possession, then got Sanders in the air and took a hit to go back to the line, closing out his night with a pair of free throws. Dragic had scored 13 straight for the Suns, with 10 of those coming with a swollen left elbow.

The Suns scored a season-high 126 points, but they also gave up 117 to the worst offensive team in the NBA.

Top Performers

  • Goran Dragic: 30 points. 9-13 shooting. 4-5 from deep. 8-8 from the line. Six assists and four rebounds. 13 straight points to close out the game. 10 of those points with a giant swollen elbow. 23 FREAKING MINUTES. All-Star.
  • Alex Len: The No. 5 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, is starting to flash the potential that had him at the top of Ryan McDonough's draft board. He is getting better every time he steps on the floor. He's already the Sun best rebounder, and had 10 big rebounds tonight. He also chipped in seven points with a couple of dunks, a putback and a free throw plus a block that led to a run-out for the Suns. He played 22 minutes including the entire fourth quarter. Len's defense was pretty impressive tonight as well. He's going to be special, folks.
  • Gerald Green: Green got fired up by the Milwaukee fans and carried the Suns for a stretch in the third quarter. He finished with 23 points on 7-13 shooting. He shot the ball like he typically does, hitting four of his six 3-poin attempts, but he also got to the basket for a couple finger rolls early in the game and took advantage when Milwaukee's rookie Nate Wolters checked into the game, taking the smaller guard down to the post an drawing a foul.
  • Morri: Neither twin looked good early, and their defense was pretty bad all night, but they still ended up combining for 29 points on 9-18 shooting, five rebounds and five assists.
  • Brandon Knight: Brandon Knight finished with 24 points and eight assists, witth 11 of those points coming from the free-throw line. Knight got to the basket at will, and when he didn't finish he got fouled.
  • Larry Sanders: Sanders finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, and he was a huge part of the Bucks' push in the third quarter.
  • Ersan Ilyasova: Ilyasova is having an awful season after getting paid two years ago, but tonight he was spectacular with 27 points on 7-15 shooting, 3-6 from deep and 10-10 from the charity stripe.

Final Thoughts

  • Goran Dragic is an All-Star.
  • The Bucks are an awful team, an the Suns are clearly more talented. Yet Phoenix let them hang around and couldn't quite put them away early enough to allow Goran Dragic to sit out the fourth. The next step for Phoenix is to learn how to bring it each and every night, regardless of opponent. Playing down to the competition is how teams lose games they shouldn't, and if Phoenix is going to make the playoffs they are going to need each an every win they can get.
  • Goran Dragic is an All-Star.
  • The Suns were sloppy for most of the night. The Bucks can't score, yet Suns turnovers (15 compared to just nine for Milwaukee) and missed shots allowed the Bucks to get out on the break (20-12 edge for Milwaukee in the open court). They weren't locked in defensively either, and while there were some tough calls, the Suns were out of position too often and forced to foul. The free throws and transition buckets gave the worst shooting team in the NBA some confidence, and that translated into some made jumpers as the game went on.
  • Alex Len is going to be really good.
  • Goran Dragic is an All-Star.
  • Leandro Barbosa is still struggling to make shots, but he made some spectacular passes tonight and ended up with four assists and seven points.
  • Ish Smith put up six and six in his first trip back to Milwaukee. #IshSmithRevengeGame
  • On a related note, Slava Kravtsov did not play.
  • Goran Dragic is an All-Star.

All right everyone. We're back at it tomorrow night as the Suns close out their four-game Eastern road trip in Indiana. The Pacers are going to come out ready for revenge after what happened in Phoenix. Pray for Goran's elbow; we're going to need him.

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