Well, that was closer than many of us had hoped.
The Bucks proved to be a tough matchup again for the Suns, who squeaked out a win despite being done for a good chunk of the game.
The Suns committed many of the same errors that characterized the first matchup with the Bucks: too many turnovers, poor ball movement and at times questionable interior presence, particularly on the boards. This was much more true of the first half than the second half.
It Was Over When: P.J. Tucker tipped a pass out of bounds at about 1 minute left in the fourth quarter with .2 seconds left on the shot clock.
Biggest Improvement Over Previous Bucks Game: Alex Len. Previously: 6 points (2/7 shooting), 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 6 personal fouls in 19 minutes. Tonight: 9 points (4/7 shooting), 8 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 personal fouls
Player of the Game: Markieff Morris - 26 points (10/17 shooting), 10 rebounds; the quietest dominant performance I have ever seen.
In a throwback to the beginning of the season, the Suns were atrocious in the first quarter, coming out slow and turning the ball over 7 times. Bledsoe in particular looked troubled by the Bucks' defense, and had three turnovers and a handful more bad possessions.
Alex Len also struggled a bit trying to defend Zaza Pachulia. In one sequence Pachulia got three offensive rebounds, muscling Len out of the way seemingly with ease.
The bright spot of the quarter was Isaiah Thomas, who came in after Bledsoe and Dragic struggled and managed to right the ship a bit, ending the quarter with a three and bringing the margin down to 21-15.
The poor play continued into the beginning of the second quarter: there were three turnovers and three missed shots to start the quarter, for a total of six straight possessions without a point.
At about the 7 minute mark the tide began to turn, instigated by back to back trips to the line by Marcus Morris and Thomas, and a nice block by Alex Len on Kendall Marshall.
Goran Dragic and Thomas turned it on as the quarter wound down, and an emphatic dunk by Len in the final minutes brought the Suns to within 1.
The team started the quarter hot, scoring on each of their first three possessions and opening up a 50-44 lead. They also played solid defense, preventing the Bucks from getting easy buckets and ensuring that Pachulia wasn't able to get offensive rebounds.
Things started to go awry in the middle of the quarter as Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd changed up his defense, going to a perimeter zone defense with double coverage on the ball handler. Kidd was basically daring the Suns to dump the ball off the Miles Plumlee and have him score, and it worked, preventing the Suns from running a smooth offense. The Bucks managed to open up a 7 point lead before Hornacek adjusted, going with a small ball lineup featuring Markieff Morris at the 5.
By the end of the quarter, the Suns were down 1, 72-71.
The Suns stepped on the gas pedal a bit in the fourth, and were leading for the majority of the quarter. Markieff went on a bit of a tear, with 8 points in the quarter.
Gerald Green also finally showed some life, scoring all of his 7 points in the quarter.
The Bucks, meanwhile, shot poorly to end the game. Without a clear, consistent outside scoring threat, the team just didn't see able to get enough clean looks. The presence of Len in the block really kept the Bucks' slashers from getting solid opportunities.
In conclusion, it wasn't a pretty game, but it was a victory. The Bucks aren't a bad team, and to go in and win in their arena was never going to be an easy task. The team didn't help their cause with poor play early in the game and a large number of turnovers, but at the end of the day they were able to pull things together for a win.