Suns Strokes: Suns defense falls apart in loss to Bucks
PHOENIX — Looking to build upon their performance the night before in Sacramento, the Phoenix Suns instead fell flat on their collective faces.
Despite 31 points from Devin Booker and a career-high 27 from Marquese Chriss, the Suns dropped a 137-112 home decision to the Milwaukee Bucks in front of 17,192 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday.
The Suns (16-35) have lost six of seven.
Meanwhile, the Bucks (22-28) snapped a five-game losing streak with their third straight victory over the Suns, their longest winning streak in the series since winning three in a row from 1987-88.
The Bucks established their dominance early, and they never relented.
Milwaukee tied or set Suns opponent season-highs in first-quarter (45), first-half (74) and fourth-quarter scoring (36); and they came within a point of matching the mark for most total points allowed by the Suns this season.
As it was, the 137 points did set a Bucks season-high.
And this from a team that, like the Suns, didn’t arrive in Phoenix until very early in the morning after playing in Denver.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led six Bucks players in double figures. He scored a team-high 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting with 12 rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots.
The Bucks shot 63.4 percent and had 74 points in the paint, both Suns opponent season-highs.
The Suns were held to 41.8 percent shooting.
After zero first-quarter points in more than nine minutes of court time, Booker exploded for 27 in the second quarter. And he did so in just over seven minutes (7:13 to be exact). It began with a 3-pointer, the first of five he would make (on five attempts) in the period, and ended with a pair of free throws. Booker, who shot 9-of-11 from the field, scored 16 during a 20-8 run that made it 68-58 Milwaukee at the 1:57 mark, and then he was responsible for the Suns’ final 17 points to pull the home team to within eight, 74-66, at halftime.
It was Chriss’ turn to carry the scoring load in the third and fourth quarters. He had 11 in each period. All 11 of his third-quarter points came in the final 3:38 as he made two 3-pointers, a lay-up and three free throws. Chriss shot 7-of-13 from the field, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and 6-of-9 from the foul line for his 22 second-half points. For the game, he made nine of 16 field goal attempts. Chriss became the third rookie this season to score at least 27 points in a game, joining Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (three times) and Dallas’ Yogi Ferrell.
So that’s why they call him the “Greek Freak”. Antetokounmpo was freakishly good in the first quarter, making eight of his nine field goal attempts plus two free throws for a game-high 18 points. He added three rebounds, two assists and two blocks in Milwaukee’s 45-point period, the most points allowed by the Suns in any quarter this season. The Bucks, who shot 77.3 percent from the field (17-of-22), led by as many as 23 points, 41-18 at the 1:37 mark, after Mirza Teletovic hit a 3 to cap a 17-0 run.
No Bucks player came close to double-figure scoring in a single quarter after Antetokounmpo. Though several did finish in double digits for the game. Teletovic burned his former team for 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting off the bench. Jabari Parker added 18 (7-of-10 FG), John Henson 15 (6-of-8 FG), while Malcolm Brogdon (5-of-8) and Greg Monroe (5-of-5) each had 13. Parker, by the way, finished a rebound shy of what would’ve been his third double-double of the season and 11th of his career.
STAT OF THE GAME
137: The Bucks scored a season-high 137 points on a season-high 52 made field goals, the team’s most since March 28, 2006 (52 vs. Phoenix)
HE SAID IT
“What you’re seeing right now is a player, who, during that stretch, reminded me of Kobe (Bryant). I’m just being honest with you,” head coach Earl Watson said, referring to Booker’s 27-point second quarter. “And what he did was pretty impressive, and the fact that he’s only 20 and he still hasn’t gotten into his grown man strength yet. Eventually, he will.”
The Suns’ 41 second-quarter and 66 first-half points set season-highs, besting the previous marks on Dec. 28 at the Spurs.
The Suns attempted 30 free throws, their fifth straight game with at least 30 attempts, the longest such streak in the league.
Booker (20 years, 97 days old) became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20+ points in at least 16 straight games
P.J. Tucker finished with a career-high seven steals, surpassing his previous high of five which had been done seven times.
Jared Dudley, who had missed the past two games because of illness, returned and was held scoreless (0-of-3 FG) in 6:39.
Dragan Bender missed his second straight game with a bruised right ankle; he has not played in six of the last seven games.
Ronnie Price once again landed on the inactive list; that’s now four times in the five games since signing his 10-day contract.
Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert, acquired by the Bucks from Charlotte, joined their new team in Phoenix but neither played.
The Suns open a two-game road trip against Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, Feb. 6. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
This is the third meeting of the season. Each of the first two matchups were decided in overtime, with the visiting team winning.
The clubs last played on Dec. 11, a 120-119 Suns loss. Bledsoe finished with 32 points and eight assists.
Overall, the Suns have won 12 of the last 18 games in the series.
From New Orleans, the Suns will travel to play Memphis.
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