Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks
Time: 5 pm (local)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns (20-54) take their show 337 miles east from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to face the Milwaukee Bucks (30-44) in the Brandon Knight Revenge Game.
After making the playoffs in 2014-15 as a No. 6 seed, the Milwaukee Bucks find themselves out of the playoff picture this season and in the midst of a five-game losing streak — all against teams with rosier fortunes. The Bucks have been atrocious on the road (9-29), which is 25th in the NBA, but have fared better at home (21-15). They have not played since Mar. 26, which was a 115-91 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at home.
The addition of Greg Monroe was Milwaukee's big free agent signing last summer, but to this point the pairing has not been an ideal fit — so much so that Milwaukee explored trading the center before the trade deadline. Monroe has averaged 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds for his new team on an efficient 52.2 percent from the field, which are numbers on par with previous seasons. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee's Swiss (Greek?) Army knife, is averaging 16.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.4 blocks this season and has already collected four triple-doubles. Head coach Jason Kidd also recently anointed The Greek Freak the team's primary playmaker for the remainder of the season. Another promising young player, Jabari Parker, is still working himself back into a groove after tearing his left ACL on Dec. 15 last season against Phoenix but has averaged 16.9 points and 5.9 assists since Feb. 1, including a 36-point outburst against the Houston Rockets on Feb. 29. Khris Middleton, he of the game-winning shot last season against the Suns, signed a new 5-year, $70 million deal last summer and now leads the Bucks in scoring at 18.1 per game. Former Sun Tyler Ennis has received consistent playing time over the last month and had 12 assists against the Hornets on Saturday. Miles Plumlee might get his Revenge Game against the Suns after not playing back in December.
Milwaukee comes in ranked 27th in the NBA for total rebounds per game (41.6), 29th in made 3-pointers per game (5.4) and 30th in 3-pointers attempted per game (15.5) but 5th in team field goal percentage (46.6 percent) and 6th in blocks per game (5.8).
Points: Khris Middleton (18.1)
Rebounds: Greg Monroe (9.1)
Assists: Michael Carter-Williams (5.2)
The Suns come off consecutive games against the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves where they dug themselves out of 20-point holes only to walk away with the loss anyway. They now have to go 5-3 over their final eight games to avoid finishing with sole possession of the second-worst record in team history.
Rookie Devin Booker continues to impress, scoring 30 points against Minnesota and showing poise for the Suns down the stretch of that game as he helped spearhead the comeback. It was his fifth 30-point game this season; only Blake Griffin (14) and Stephen Curry (8) have had more 30-point games as rookies since 2009-10 than Booker.
Brandon Knight also scored 30 points against the Timberwolves, but 27 of them came in the 1st half of that contest as he lost playing time to Ronnie Price when the Suns made their second-half push. His game remains reminiscent of every Katy Perry song ever, with offense so combustible that he can begin to Roar at a moment's notice and explode like a Firework against his opponent only to suddenly lose his touch so drastically that you wonder if his Hot n Cold spells are part of some bad Teenage Dream or if you are actually Wide Awake..........California Gurls.
Alex Len recorded his 16th double-double in Phoenix's last game as he continues to search for the relative consistency that he possessed as recently as two weeks ago. Mirza Teletovic continues to bomb away from 3-point land, and P.J. Tucker continues to crash the glass. Tyson Chandler and Jon Leuer both returned to action on Monday, but neither looked completely healthy.
The Suns currently rank 8th in the league for offensive rebounds per game (11.1), which if it holds would be their highest league ranking since finishing 6th in 2002-03.
Points: Eric Bledsoe (20.4)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (8.4)
Assists: Eric Bledsoe (6.1)
Eric Bledsoe (Suns): left knee surgery (OUT)
T.J. Warren (Suns): right foot surgery (OUT)
Michael Carter-Williams (Bucks): hip surgery (OUT)
O.J. Mayo (Bucks): broken right ankle (OUT)
Steve Novak (Bucks): sprained left MCL (OUT)
Greivis Vasquez (Bucks): right ankle surgery (DOUBTFUL)
The Bucks have had three days of rest since their last game, so it will be the Suns who must overcome some fatigue on the back end of this two-game road trip. Milwaukee defeated Phoenix 101-95 in Phoenix on Dec. 20, with Middleton (26 points, 7 assists) and Michael Carter-Williams (20 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) leading the way while Antetokounmpo sat out. The Suns were led that night by Eric Bledsoe and T.J. Warren (18 points apiece), so it stands to reason someone else will need to step up this time barring the addition of Mr. Miyagi to the Suns' training staff.
Milwaukee creates so many mismatches, beginning with the abnormally long Antetokounmpo and extending to starting the 6'8'' Middleton at shooting guard and the 6'8'' Parker at power forward. All three of those players are types Tucker would usually guard, but since Tucker can't be three places at once, Booker will have to manage against Middleton and either Len or Chandler will have to step away from the basket to defend Parker. The flip side of that is that Phoenix will have a size advantage on the interior all game. The flip side of that (3 sides?) is that Len and Chandler will need to actually take advantage of the mismatch inside.
Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. P.J. Tucker
Only three players have more triple-doubles than Antetokounmpo this season, but this will be Phoenix's first taste of his unique game. Of course that means Tucker will get the assignment in a classic clash of styles. Despite closing in on 7-foot, Antetokounmpo actually weighs less than the bruising Tucker (222lbs to 245lbs). For Tucker, this will be similar to going against a less offensively gifted Kevin Durant, but with Milwaukee moving toward running their offense through Antetokounmpo, it's critical that Tucker limits him if the Suns are to stymie the Bucks.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com.