What: Milwaukee Bucks (8-8) at Phoenix Suns (7-11)
When: Wednesday, November 22nd at 7:00 PM MST
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
Watch/Listen: Fox Sports AZ and AZ Sports Radio 98.7 FM
Eric Bledsoe probably doesn’t want to be here on Thanksgiving eve.
I’m sure the hair salons in Milwaukee are much more stimulating.
Ex-Sun Eric Bledsoe is averaging just 12.2 points and 4.5 assists per game for the Bucks so far. One might assume he is taking a more secondary role to his MVP candidate teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo, but it’s actually just because he’s not exactly shooting the lights out.
Bledsoe is connecting on a paltry 36.1% of his field goals and has connected on just four out of 25 three-pointers in six games as a Buck.
Milwaukee is 4-2 since his arrival but has lost two straight, a 32 point blowout at the hands of the lowly Dallas Mavericks (3-15) and an 11 point defeat against the Washington Wizards on Monday.
Milwaukee starts a four-game road trip against the Suns tonight and is struggling to find its identity in an Eastern Conference that might have a little more meat in the middle than in recent years.
Giannis has been doing everything for Milwaukee, leading the team in scoring (second best in the NBA at 29.7 points per game), rebounding (10.3) and blocks (1.9).
His new running mate, however, has found it difficult to just flip the switch after taking off the first 12 games of the season, three to start the season where he was obviously checked out and nine more where he was resting comfortably after being sent home for his twitter transgression.
Although from all accounts Eric was well liked by his teammates, it seems reasonable to expect the normally stoic Bledsoe to try to break out of his slump by torching the Suns to make a point to the organization that benched him at the end of last season for playing too well.
Hopefully, for the Suns, the 36% shooting version of Bledsoe shows up ready to hoist bricks because every shot he clanks is one less shot for the Greek Freak.
The guy Phoenix got back in the trade for Bledsoe, although the real return for Bledsoe appeared to be an unusually protected first-round pick, has been the better of the two players since the trade.
Greg Monroe is averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds a game since returning from a minor injury. Unlike the tepid Bledsoe, Monroe is hitting a sizzling 67% of his field goal attempts.
The Suns have won both games since Monroe entered the starting lineup, a 122-113 revenge victory against the Los Angeles Lakers and a 113-105 takedown of the Chicago Bulls Sunday night. Those wins ended a stretch where the Suns had lost seven of eight games.
Phoenix will play tonight on two games of rest, which should give a team that has scored at least 110 points in six of their last seven games fresh legs. The surge in scoring has been accompanied by a new emphasis on sharing the ball.
Phoenix has recorded 28, 28 and 32 assists over the last three games. Their previous season high before this stretch was 23.
In addition to the contribution by Monroe, Troy Daniels has been electric off the bench the last three games, averaging 15.7 points (47 points in 59 minutes) and draining a total of 13 three-pointers. His sharp shooting is a welcome addition to a team that is still 26th in made three-pointers and 28th in three-point shooting percentage.
Where the Suns are still lacking is on the defensive end, where Phoenix gives up a league-high 115.9 points per game. Phoenix is dead last in the league in opponents made field goals, made free throws and rebounds while committing the most fouls in the NBA.
Some of this is because of Phoenix’s frenetic pace (2nd in the NBA), but the Suns are still yielding the second most points per possession in the league.
Overall, though, the Suns have shown lots of encouraging signs.
T.J. Warren has solidly established himself as the second-best player on the team and is averaging 21 points per game in the month of November. Devin Booker is 12th in the league in scoring (23.0 ppg) and is making solid progress towards being the perennial All-Star it’s appearing he will inevitably become.
The Suns have improved to 7-8 overall for interim coach Jay Triano, but the schedule is about to become a little more daunting.
The Suns have just two games left on a stretch of nine home games in ten overall contests. The Suns have had the fourth easiest strength of schedule in the league. After a Friday night scuffle against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Suns play six straight and 10 of their next 13 games on the road.
Easy schedule or not, a win tonight (in a winnable game) would move the Suns to 8-8 in the Triano era, a feat which I don’t think anyone imagined possible three games into the season.
All the Suns have to do is stymie Eric Bledsoe and make Greg Monroe the one who gets revenge against his former team.
Tomorrow the Suns can feast on turkey and pumpkin pie.
Tonight it’s time to feast on the Bucks.