PHOENIX – It could be concerning that the Suns allowed the league’s worst team in terms of offensive ratings and second-worst field goal shooting team (42 percent) to hit 54.4 percent and score 100 points. It’s not great Phoenix needed help in the form of 36 points off 26 turnovers.
Yet, when all was said and done in the 116-100 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, Phoenix hits a five-game road swing with momentum and a cautious reminder that while it’s arrived, it’s still a vulnerable team when not playing to its strengths.
Offensively, the Suns did play to their strengths, and Milwaukee had little resistance.
Gerald Green and Channing Frye scored 24 and 22 points respectively, with the former having two breakaway windmill dunks to go with four three-pointers and the latter pumping in six triples. How poorly did the Bucks defend Frye? The power forward posted a mind-blowing +44 plus-minus for the game.
What makes the Greek Freak so special?
Giannis Antetokounmpo was far from special on Saturday. It all started in the first quarter, when P.J. Tucker took advantage of Antetokounmpo’s length by stripping him while the forward brought the ball up for a jumper. The second half began with Antetokounmpo stifling Tucker off a screen and nearly getting an elbow to the chin as Tucker brought the ball across his body. Four minutes later, the Greek rookie earned a technical for throwing the ball at a referee after Milwaukee called a timeout.
So yeah, it was not a pretty game for the lanky rookie — not unexpected for a young player to get frustrated against a pest like Tucker, obviously. Antetokounmpo went scoreless and had four turnovers.
How do the minutes work out at guard?
Unlike Thursday’s game against Memphis, the Suns made sure to dive into the bench depth a little more without Eric Bledsoe, who will be out a week with a sprained knee before being reevaluated. Rookie Archie Goodwin came off the bench first, and Hornacek went to Ish Smith for a good while thereafter.
Smith engineered a 9-0 that took a testy 91-84 lead to 100-84 in the fourth quarter. He finished with eight points and as many assists in 19 important minutes. Meanwhile, Goran Dragic scored 15 points and added six assists in just 29 minutes.
Will Phoenix throw the first punch?
Of all the players that could help the Suns get off to hot start, P.J. Tucker probably had the best shot. He must have thought the same, because the small forward seemed set on making an impact. He scored eight of the first 15 points for Phoenix as it took a 15-9 lead halfway through the first quarter, forcing Larry Drew to pull 19-year-old Antetokounmpo for Khris Middleton.
The Suns built a lead as great as 11 yet floundered once the bench unit came in. The same thing happened in the third quarter, when the Suns went ahead by as many as 23 yet allowed O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight to gut their way to a nine-point deficit by the fourth quarter.