It was another tough loss, but one that easily should have been a victory as the Suns held a double-digit lead late and found a way to lose late.
On the season the Phoenix Suns (13-27) have done a good job at home in the second match-up against a team that beat them on the road. The record is not flashy, but 3-5 is a much better mark than what they have done on the season as a whole.
Why does this matter?
With the Milwaukee Bucks (19-18) coming to town they have another opportunity to get some semblance of redemption on the season. Look for a close affair like the other eight games this season that have been in the same category as this one, which are on average tight, defensive struggles, where they hold opponents to 94 points per game.
Part of that is the theme of the team playing very good defense at home, or at the very least a slower team, but in the end they play better at home.
In the first match-up of the season the Bucks showed a gear that the Suns didn't have in the second half cruising to a win. Thanks to an array of Brandon Jennings three-point bombs the Bucks created separation in the third and pulled away in the fourth. The teams are very even across the board and typically play closely contested games.
Head-to-Head (past four seasons)
Suns: 104.5 PPG (seven wins)
Bucks: 98.3 PPG (two wins)
Ellis vs. Suns: 19.2 PPG 4.2 APG 43.3 FG% 32.2 3PT% (26 games)
Jennings vs. Suns: 30.4 PPG 5.0 APG 36.0 FG% 32.4 3PT% (7 games)
Dragic vs. Milwaukee: 8.2 PPG 2.8 APG 43.2 FG% 23.1 3PT% (6 games)
With that there are three things that are very evident. One, because of the familiarity of being a former divisional rival the Suns can hold Ellis in check to his career averages. Two, Jennings absolutely murders the Suns individually, but has only two wins to show for it in seven games.
Three, Dragic does not perform well against the up-tempo and explosive Bucks guards. Granted there is only one start in there, this season, but he generally does not fair well against Milwaukee's Best.
Potential Suns Inactives: NA
Potential Bucks Inactives: NA
With all the attention on the guard play the battle in the paint could very well define this game. Over the past 13 games Sanders has been a machine averaging nearly a double-double (8.4 PPG and 9.8 RPG) while amassing 3.5 blocks per game. Gortat is capable of the same type of performances, but has been inconsistent all season. Both centers can control the paint with their shot-blocking and rebounding abilities, who will win the battle?
Interesting Stat: No. 1
The Bucks are the top shot-blocking team in the NBA led by Sanders and will make it even harder for the Suns to get points in the paint, where they only get 33% of at anyway.
Meaningless Stat: 2-2
Kendall Marshall is right now 2-2 against his former North Carolina Tar Heel teammates. He logged 2:33 combined in all four of those games. There is that.
The season as a whole has been a roller-coaster for the Phoenix Suns (13-28) and at times so can the individual games. After a rocky start to the game where the Suns found themselves down by double-digits, then up, and finally they were closed out by Milwaukee Bucks (20-18) for another loss, 98-94 in a flurry.
Early on the Suns hit the snooze button falling behind by giving up offensive rebound after offensive rebound to Larry Sanders. The team lacked energy early on as the starters could not find a rhythm digging another hole.
They seemed to find it in the second quarter as they outscored the Bucks 34-21, not with hot shooting, but rather with free-throws. Aside from a few explosive dunks by Shannon Brown (18 points) in the open court going 12-15 from the line in the second quarter was the gap closer the team needed. Those dunks were crowd pleasing and got Brown into an offensive groove leading the team in scoring with 16 points on the night.
That confidence manifested into some poor decisions early in the fourth as the Bucks came back creating a fight to close out the game.
After all, there was something very important on the line. The home winning streak against Milwaukee's finest basically coincided with my arrival on this planet. It has been 26 years -- 25 games exactly -- since the last time the the Bucks came into town and left victorious.
Monta Ellis (24 points) and Sanders (19 points 15 rebounds) fueled the comeback for the road team in the fourth quarter combining for (10) points late. The dagger came late in two fold as Sanders rejected Luis Scola on a typical Scola move that led to a Mike Dunleavey three with 57.4 seconds to go. Dagger.
This loss takes the Suns under .500 at home and drops them to the bottom of the Western Conference standings and into the fourth spot in the NBA Draft Lottery. So much for redemption, streaks, and a home court advantage this season.