Eric Bledsoe got booed.
A decidedly lean crowd at Talking Stick made their opinion known with with a raucous showing when the Suns latest former point guard had his name called. A smattering of cheers were sprinkled in, but the cacophony of boos overwhelmed them.
Those boos carried over to the game, when Bledsoe was loudly taunted each time he touched the ball in the early going.
Not that it mattered much, as Bledsoe hit his first two shots and scored the Bucks first five points.
Khris Middleton was also doing work for the Bucks. He had a fastbreak dunk over Marquese Chriss that I honestly didn’t think he was capable of. Middleton scored 13 in the first quarter to lead all players. Many of them were of the “way too easy” variety.
With Tyson Chandler starting and Greg Monroe coming in off the bench... Alex Len was demoted to third string. Monroe led the Suns in scoring after the first quarter with eight points off the bench, continuing to make an impact on the offensive end.
Six turnovers by the Suns, and some overall sloppy play, resulted in a 33-23 lead for the Bucks after one.
After his quick start, Bledsoe appeared to be forcing the issue... making just two of his next nine shots, bricking a pair of free throws and getting whistled for a bad goaltending to give T.J. Warren a three point play.
Halfway through the quarter the Bucks still remained comfortably ahead (40-30), however, due to a 12-3 difference in turnovers.
The Suns were the team with 12.
By halftime the Suns would have just four assists against 14 turnovers.
Their streak of three straight games with at least 28 assists appeared to be in jeopardy.
Adding to that, the Suns manage to connect on just 1-9 three point shots in the half.
Miraculously, the Suns still only trailed by ten at the half (54-44).
Devin Booker led the Suns with 13 at the half, but it was clear that he was struggling to find his groove. Bledsoe (17 points) and Middleton (18) were leading the way for the Bucks, shouldering the scoring load in Giannis’s absence.
The Bucks stretched their lead to 15 early in the third, prompting early substitutions by coach Jay Triano. Chriss and Warren out... Bender and Jackson in. Phoenix responded with a 13-5 run to cut the lead back to seven (64-57) before Jason Kidd had seen enough and called a timeout.
The Suns kept their foot on the gas pedal, tying the game a few minutes later (67-67) on a corner three by Bender, who played the game wearing a protective mask... then taking their first lead since early in the game (70-69) on another.
I say keep the mask.
Then Devin Booker lost his cool and the Suns cooled off.
Booker drew a technical foul for arguing an offensive foul and was given a rest with three minutes left in the quarter. This, in part, allowed Milwaukee to outscore the Suns 15-5 to close the period and take an 84-75 lead into the fourth quarter.
Middleton (31 points) and Bledsoe (24) were still basically a two man team for the Bucks.
Momentum swung back to Phoenix to start the fourth and Bender once again tied the game at 84 on a driving layup. After T.J. made a three point play the Suns were up 87-84.
Greg Monroe really started to make his mark on the game during this stretch. He was incessant and tenacious on the glass, recording his second double double in four games for the Suns (22 points and 15 rebounds) midway through the quarter. Monroe had eight offensive rebounds by himself as the Suns were basically practicing tip drills most of the fourth quarter.
So basically Dragan Bender and Greg Monroe were trying to will the Suns to victory... just the way I saw it unfolding pre-game.
After Troy Daniels hit a three to give the Suns their biggest lead of the night 92-88 the Suns had outscored Milwaukee 17-4 in the period.
Things tightened up from there, with Milwaukee tying it back up at 96 behind what else... but the spot up shooting of Thon Maker.
Eric Bledsoe, who made just 6-13 free throws, then gave Milwaukee a one point lead by splitting a pair of free throws.
Booker and Maker traded baskets, with T.J. also splitting two free throws and it was 99-99. Lots of lead changes and no separation in this game going down the stretch.
Another Suns’ turnover (29 on the game) led to a three pointer by Middleton (game high 40 points) that gave the Bucks a 102-99 lead.
After yet another turnover gave the ball back to Milwaukee, Bledsoe hit 1-2 from the line to put the Bucks up by four.
Tyler Ulis was fouled on a three point attempt with 5.5 seconds left and connected on all three free throws to get the Suns to back within one at 103-102. The Bucks nearly turned the ball over on the inbounds pass, but a replay review gave them another chance.
This time the Bucks inbounded from center court and were able to get the ball in to Bledsoe. He hit two free throws to put the Bucks back up by three.
Then Devin Booker decided he hadn’t played quite enough basketball yet and wanted to go back for second helpings.
He hit a pull up three pointer from the bottom left corner as time expired to send it into overtime tied 105-105.
Overtime was a little chippy, with Suns fans at the arena not really feeling like they were getting the benefit of the officiating.
Overall, it got uglied up a little bit.
In all, Milwaukee managed to merely outscore the Suns 4-2 in OT when the Suns rebounded a Bledsoe miss with 13.7 seconds remaining and called timeout.
Booker got a decent look from the baseline, but couldn’t get it to go. After forcing overtime with his dagger, Booker (team high 23 points) was 0-5 in the extra period.
Middleton hit two free throws on the other end to put the Bucks up 111-107 and ice the game.
It was apropos that the Suns turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass.
Eric Bledsoe finished with 30 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists in his return to Phoenix.
Their first half torpor, a slew of turnovers, and cold shooting were just too much for the Suns to overcome... even with a spirited effort in the second half.
Final score Bucks 113, Suns 107.