The last time the Milwaukee Bucks (7-25) came to the Valley to play the Phoenix Suns (19-12) a lot of things were different. The Bucks were two games over .500 looking for a playoff birth, the Suns were 15 games under .500, Giannis Antetokounmpo was relatively unknown prospect, and it was the last time Alvin Gentry would be called the teams head coach.
It was a much different time.
Flash-forward to today and the Bucks are the worst team in the NBA, the Suns are vying for a home playoff game, and Giannis is playing well as an NBA starter. Oh how things have changed.
This season the Bucks have played 25 games without their budding star at center Larry Sanders who recently came back from injury. Now that he is back and playing well (7-7 from the field the other night) the Bucks are a different team. Now they have a big man inside that can protect the rim and give them some athleticism in the paint. He is not enough to make this a winning club again, but the athletic presence changes the gameplan for opposing teams.
Despite the loss to the Grizzlies the other night the Suns are playing quality basketball. Over the past 13 games they have won 10 games and marched into the conversation with the Clippers and Warriors for the Pacific Division crown.
Missing Eric Bledsoe the other night was a major blow. Until then they have a synergy with the starters that resulted in winning 10/12 games. Coach Jeff Hornacek confirmed today at shoot around that Bledsoe will miss at least a week (including tonight) with a sprained right knee.
This is another opportunity for the Suns against a bad Bucks team to collect wins to stay in the divisional conversation. The Bucks rank near the bottom of the league in points scored (29th), overall shooting (28th), three-point shooting (24th), and free-throw attempts per game (27th) giving the Suns opportunistic defense (16th in points allowed) to create turnovers and get out in transition (1st) for easy points.
Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)
Suns: 100.7 PPG (5 wins)
Bucks: 97.1 PPG (2 wins)
For the most part the Suns are pretty confident against the Bucks not only recently, but historically. They are 67-63 lifetime against them and before last seasons debacle the Suns had won five straight games against the Bucks in a row. Outside of a coin flip... The Suns have the Bucks number.
PG - Goran Dragic v. Brandon Knight
SG - Gerald Green v. Luke Ridnour
SF - P.J. Tucker v. Giannis Antetokounmpo
PF - Channing Frye v. Ersan Ilyasova
C - Miles Plumlee v. Larry Sanders
Potential Suns Inactives: Eric Bledsoe (Right Knee, OUT), Alex Len (Left Ankle, Game-to-Game), and Emeka Okafor (Neck, Out Indefinitely)
Potential Bucks Inactives: John Henson (Left Ankle, Out), Zaza Pachulia (Right Foot, Probable), and Carlos Delfino (Right Foot, Out)
The Suns vs. The Suns
It is fair to say the Suns should beat the Bucks. The Bucks are the worst team in the NBA, they are on the road, and they are playing a team that has won 10/13 games overall. Earlier in the season the Suns shot themselves in the foot against the Jazz and the Kings (twice) in games they should have won and if they did win, would have been in the conversation as a Top 4 team in the Western Conference. They are playing themselves in this game and the expectations placed on a team that is playing well enough to be the buzz of the National scene.
Will the Suns beat themselves tonight, again?
Interesting Stat: 3-4
The Suns are 3-4 this season without Bledsoe in the line-up. He did not practice on Friday after sitting out the game against the Grizzlies in a last minute scratch from the starting line-up. How will the Suns react without him again now that it is official he is out at least a week?
Meaningless Stat: Six
This season the Suns have six losses against winning teams and six losses against losing teams. Tonight, losing team.