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Game Recap: Suns lose 101—104 in hotly contested marquee matchup

Early struggles with flow, coupled by free-throw woes see the Suns finish just behind the 8-ball

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Tell me if you’ve seen this before: The Phoenix Suns lost in final seconds to the Milwaukee Bucks in a highly contested game. This time it was 104-101 on a Sunday afternoon in February that felt a lot like July in terms of the intensity on both sides.

The Suns had a chance to tie the game on a last-second shot, but once again failed a few times to deliver in the closing moments against the Milwaukee Bucks. Bucks All-Star Jrue Holiday made key plays down the stretch, including a strip-steal against Booker with the Suns down 2. Yes, it felt the same as the last four Finals endings.

The teams were both missing their best player. Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out with a strained quad, while Kevin Durant still hasn’t taken the court yet for the Suns. He’s expected to play in the Suns next game, however.

The Suns are now 33-29 on the season, and will next face the Hornets on Wednesday night.

First half

Phoenix would see a solid tone set in efforts from Josh Okogie, who had seven points and four rebounds, but it was the non-box score efforts - rebounding, getting into offensive players of the Bucks, and deflections - that helped to settle the somewhat erratic start.

Down seven, the Suns would ramp up their pace with the second unit to start, then also saw a ton of ancillary efforts from their wings in crashing the glass, on both ends, finishing the first half +8 on the boards

However, the Suns would fail to sustain flow on that end. Good shot selection, but the results simply weren’t there in efficiency on initial or second possessions within offensive trips. Credit the stingy and physical defense of the Bucks plenty, but the Suns half-court attack was indeed in the mud.

Milwaukee’s length and size within their defensive scheme really emphasized timely activity and

Second half

Paul and Booker would put their foot on the gas more, and find breathing room within Milwaukee’s defense, and knock down a handful of midrange attempts, in a multitude of ways.

They’d come in tandem with Ayton activity scoring in the short roll as well, loosening up the coverage around them and - finally - stamping some flow in the half-court offensively, to the tune of 28 points.

Also, the defense would find its footing and some sustainability that would linger into the fourth. All rooted in just being solid both in positioning and containing the ball.

They’d come out to a 9-2 run, which ballooned to 18-11 as the Suns continued to apply pressure on both ends.

Milwaukee would come out of the second timeout, with their starters in tow, to reset the pace with an impressive 11-2 jab to draw back even with 3:11 to play.

A couple of Jae Crowder daggers from the left corner had a different type of impact that, of course, stung slightly more.

Ultimately, a 101-104 loss would see the Suns 13-24 performance from the line come back to hurt them in the end.

Stand out Suns

  • Torrey Craig’s efforts on the glass - six offensive rebounds - truly helped to jumpstart then keep the team afloat
  • Deandre Ayton’s 22 points, but the manner in which they came - via short-roll play and composure against the league’s best rim protector.
  • Josh Okogie, quite literally everything. The physicality, the multiple efforts on the glass and defensively, just an invaluable cog to all the Suns are trying to do on the floor.
  • Jock Landale and his high-energy minutes were a revelation in the third quarter as Ayton sat.

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