Vengeance is ours.
In the first meeting of the season between Phoenix and Milwaukee, swingman Khris Middleton made an off-balance, turnaround three-pointer to give the Bucks a two-point victory at US Airways Center.
The Suns didn’t put themselves in the same position Tuesday night, this time at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Phoenix put some separation between itself and the home team in the closing minutes, fighting its way to a 102-96 victory.
Phoenix claimed its third straight win and its ninth in the last 11 contests while improving to 21-16 overall. Milwaukee fell to 18-18 and failed to gain ground on the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Suns avoided being swept by Milwaukee for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign.
Here’s a look at Tuesday’s game, by the numbers:
There was only one other NBA game Tuesday, and it had big implications for Phoenix. The Detroit Pistons improbably pulled out a 105-104 victory in San Antonio, and that left the Spurs just a half-game ahead of the Suns for seventh place in the Western Conference standings. The win was Detroit’s sixth in a row, all coming since the team waived forward Josh Smith.
Two games after blocking a career-high six shots, Alex Len denied five Bucks attempts Tuesday. It was the third time the second-year center has swatted five shots or more this season, and the Suns have won all three of those games. Len finished up with a near double-double in Milwaukee, tallying nine points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes.
Markieff Morris racked up a game-high-tying 26 points and a team-high 10 rebounds in the win. It was the power forward’s sixth double-double of the year, but just the first in his last 17 games. The Suns are 5-1 when he records the feat this year. The Kansas product also was a game-high plus-16 when he was on the court Tuesday.
Eric Bledsoe quietly got himself a double-double Tuesday, working his way to 10 points and 10 assists. He also pulled down six boards in the victory. Phoenix is now 4-2 when he reaches double-figures in at least two categories in a game this season.
Middleton and Zaza Pachulia were instrumental in Milwaukee’s win in Phoenix last month, but the two were relatively quiet this time around, combining for 20 points. Pachulia went just 2-of-7 from the field and turned the ball over six times, but he did pull down eight boards. Brandon Knight was the one doing the most damage for Milwaukee, pouring in 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Giannis Antetokounmpo also had a nice night of 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Even though it feels like the Suns have had a tougher time this year than they did a season ago, they have the exact same record 37 games in. The only difference is the Suns had lost three straight and five of seven around this time last year, and now they’re on a three-game winning streak and have won nine of the last 11. Let’s see if they can win 48 games — or better — once again, but they’re going to need to pick up the pace to get there.
Turnovers were aplenty in the game, as the two teams combined for 36 giveaways. Bledsoe was responsible for seven of the Suns’ 19 miscues.
Isaiah Thomas’ 19 points led the Suns’ bench to a 36-32 advantage over the Bucks’ reserves. John Henson (13) and Jared Dudley (10) both reached double-figures for the home team off the pine.
The Suns were able to hold onto a slight advantage on the boards, outrebounding Milwaukee 46-44, although the Bucks had one additional offensive rebound. Phoenix, however, was dominated in points in the paint, as the Bucks had a 52-40 advantage in that category.
The Bucks are obviously much different than they were last season, when they had the worst record in the NBA. When the Suns were in Milwaukee a little under a year ago, they dropped 126 points on the home team; the Bucks weren’t too far behind with 117 points. Their other meeting last year was a 116-100 Suns victory at US Airways Center. The two teams both failed to reach 100 points against each other earlier this season, and the Suns just barely eclipsed the century mark in Tuesday’s matchup.