Phoenix Suns 126, Milwaukee Bucks 117 — Bench time

Many times this year, it’s seemed like how Jeff Hornacek handles the Phoenix Suns’ rotation boldly indicates what he thinks of the opponents. Against the league-best Indiana Pacers, the rotation was short and veteran-laden until the Suns were desperate to change the pace.

Against the league-worst Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, Hornacek wasn’t shy about diving deep into his bench with a game at Indiana set for Thursday night.

Phoenix didn’t need Goran Dragic and the starters to play lengthy minutes in a 126-117 win in Milwaukee. Dragic needed 24 minutes to score 30 points and doll out six dimes. Gerald Green played a team-high 30 minutes and put in 23 as he combined with Dragic to shoot 16-for-26 and hit four three-pointers each.

Ten players hit 20 or more minutes for Hornacek as he carefully toed the line of controlling the game but resting up his starting unit.

Milwaukee used a 16-5 run to end the second quarter after Phoenix built a 23-point lead, its largest to that point. With the Suns holding a 62-50 lead at halftime, the Bucks clawed even closer. Halfway through the third quarter they climbed within six points, and then within five after the first minute of the fourth.

Dragic certainly didn’t come out completely unscathed in an efficient effort.

A hard foul late in the game saw him knock his elbow on the floor, but a minute later he drilled a three at the buzzer with three minutes left that gave the Suns a 119-106 lead that finally seemed to be the dagger — he scored 13 in a row late to make it 124-110 and out of reach.

It was both a victory for the team but also in terms of development. Rookie Alex Len hit double-digit rebounding for the first time of his career, grabbing 10 rebounds to go with seven points. His plus-11 plus/minus score for the game was third on the team behind Dragic’s plus-20 and Channing Frye’s plus-14, a sign of just how much he was affecting shots at the rim.

Wednesday also became important in lubricating the gears of the Morris twins, who combined for 29 points and five assists on 50 percent shooting. Their production will be extremely important come Thursday.

Now, to answer some pregame questions posed by Jeff Sanders.

How do the Suns start?

Channing Frye nailed three early shots as the Suns got off cookin’ like they did against the Sixers. Phoenix hit 8-of-11 to start the first quarter and induced a Milwaukee timeout 1:20 into the game, which was a bit longer than the timeout called by Philadelphia after Phoenix’s first possession in its last game, but quick nonetheless.

More impressively, the Suns’ defense was just as effective as their offense. They allowed Philadelphia to get into a rhythm two days ago, but on Wednesday Milwaukee found itself behind 28-19 after shooting 29.2 percent to Phoenix’s 55 percent in the first quarter.

In general, you could fault Phoenix for allowing Milwaukee to keep pushing back, just as the Sixers did two nights earlier. But it is important to note that came as a result of Hornacek trusting that he could give his younger players solid minutes and still get the win.

Does Marcus Morris make a dent in the stat sheet?

He did in the first half, and it certainly helped that his big brother got into some early foul trouble. Morris got hot to score 12 first-half points, and he also added three rebounds but from there on out was relatively quiet. Markieff got hot in the second half, scoring all 13 of his points after the break.

Does Giannis Antetokounmpo contribute more the second time around, and does he score a point?

Antetokounmpo missed his first attempt, a dunk and also missed a slashing layup soon after. He finished 2-for-7 to score six points and also added four assists, which was a tad bit better than his donut against the Suns in the teams’ first meeting this year.

Irsan Ilyasova led Milwaukee with 27 points and scored 10 points at the foul stripe, and Brandon Knight added 24 points and eight assists. But after scoring 16 points by halftime, the Bucks’ starting point guard shot 1-for-7 in the second half.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    Another All-Star performance from the back-court of Dragic and Green.

    Alex Len is a keeper. TEN boards in 22 minutes!

    Morris brothers continue to make a case to move into the starting line-up.

    Ish Smith continues to prove he is the Suns back-up PG.

  • ellensburgbballfan

    Great game

    You can’t more production than a near double double in 22 minutes

  • BCrayZ

    This is 19 in a row. Very good game Alex.

    “His plus-11 plus/minus score for the game was third on the team behind Dragic’s plus-20 and Channing Frye’s plus-14.” Suns have now won 19 consecutive games when scoring 110 points or more.

    Ever since Barbosa has come back from a still separated shoulder to play, our team has won 5 of its 6 games. LB has always been at his best in a back to back game, when he is slowed down by half a step. When he is at full speed, he can even be too fast for his own good. This is a perfect time to start him, possibly moving GG14 to the 3. Barbosa is not a point guard. Play him where he will play best. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • vtsunrise


  • vtsunrise

    I hope Dragic isn’t injured too badly. But what a perfect time to sit him out for a few games and showcase the amazing depthosity of this ubercool squad.

    The Suns are like that magician’s trick where the dude keeps reaching in deeper into his hat and pulls out more… and more… and more…

  • CART Jeff

    4th quarter production came from the backcourt, made it look easy. Again, curious to see how Green will respond playing against Pacers after having success. I want him to develop a win first attitude, tireless, and out to prove he is the best by shutting down the Pacer he is defending. He could be Pippen with more ball skills. MJ taught Pippen mental toughness, it’s up to coach Jeff, Dragic and Tucker to do the same. So far so good, long way to go but it could be exciting. Same goes for Plumlee, he has so much potential on the offensive end. Not even close to finding out how good he could be. Really think Len and Plumlee, going against each other in practice, will help both players improve their offense.

  • sunsn7

    Indiana’s out for the big payback. Huge test and nut check tomorrow night.

    “Getcha popcorn ready!”

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    In four of the Suns last five victories Green is averaging 22 points per game.

    The Suns have played 15 games so far in January. Alex Len has been available for all 15 games. Suns have gone 8-7 and in those 7 losses Len has played in 7 or less minutes and a DNP.

    Alex Len must play more minutes for the Suns to go undefeated the rest of the way!

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    Alex Len boldly declares after the game, “Bring on Big Roy!

    BTW Len is quite long, besides standing at least 7′-1″ he has a wingspan of 7′-3.5″! Only 20 years-old and still growing into his body and Len boldly goes where Frye doesn’t, in the paint to grab rebounds!

    I really love Len’s game thus far.

  • foreveris2long

    Great game against a lesser opponent as the Suns did not take them for granted and coach Horny used his bench well.

    Where are the Len haters who proclaimed him a bust in November? I cannot find them anywhere. Anyway some will manup but most won’t however indictments for the permanent members of Planet Orange will not be necessary. Free passes for everyone who did not believe.

    Len is going to be a monster next season after he gets stronger and plays summer ball. He is so long, aggressive and athletic. How often do you see 7 footers dive for a basketball?Now most fans can see why McD said he thought he was the best player in the draft at the time of the draft. Michael Carter Williams however will win Rookie of the Year.

    Green has really stepped his game up. He definitely believes in himself now. He is talking to the fans while blazing the nets. Dragic has as much heart as anyone in the league. These guys are just flat out balling. Denver and Dallas get losses tonight so another great night for the Suns.

  • Lance

    All-star performance and huge efficiency Dragon, great play again.

  • ellensburgbballfan

    I was there at the beginning saying he was going to be good eventually

    I like how he always is around the basket

    That’s what you want out of your center

    If dragon can’t go tomorrow just put LB in there give goodwin some minutes too

    If I was the suns I would see why the Bobcats would want for Michael Kidd-Gilchrest

  • hawki

    The G Men (Gerald & Goran) go 8-11 from 3 pt land to send the Buck fans home to cry in their Schlitz beers.

    Who is this new guy the Suns have…Len something or other ?

  • BCrayZ

    @ Forever – Trey Burke will win ROY.

    Never said a bad word about Alex. Take me off of your list.

    This was his breakout game. Even besides his very impressive board work, ““His plus-11 plus/minus score for the game was third on the team behind Dragic’s plus-20 and Channing Frye’s plus-14.” Hope that Jeff stops subbing LB in for Gogi, when they are best playing at the same time. Make it so Jeff..

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    If Hornacek continues playing Green alongside Dragic he will continue playing like an All-Star and will steal the Most Improved Player award from Miles.

    Green has started 27 of 45 games due to Bledsoe’s injuries. He is having a career year, shooting:
    38% threes/53FG%/85% FT

    14 pts/3 boards/1.5 dimes/1 steal/.5 blks – You don’t put that type of production on the bench.

    Barbosa has provided a nostalgic lift to anemic bandwagon fans who long for the days when they discovered the Suns. But unfortunately he hasn’t provided the production as Ish has been called upon time after time to replace him and preserve a victory.

    Barbosa is shooting a miserable 14% from three/44% FG/77 FT.

    Those are similar to the rookie Goodwin’s stats. At 6′-5″ Goodwin provides that same size and athleticism as Green but with Ish on the 2nd unit.

    Out with old and bring on the youngsters with the 2nd unit.


    Now that is a young, long and athletic 2nd unit that is 2nd to none in the NBA.

  • john


    Prepare for BCrayZ’s wrath.


    He’s about to go Sherman on you.

  • Foreveris2long

    Funny stuff John.

    I hope Goodwin gets some minutes tonight which should happen if Dragic sits. Let him transfer some of his D-League confidence to the NBA game. Win or lose tonight this was a good trip. Now if we can get the Clippers to beat the Warriors tonight we will really be in business.

    Still looking for those November Len haters. Anyone seen them? I cannot find them anywhere. This may turn into a cold case.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    So John, was I bit too transparent? I thought he might not have noticed. (wink, wink)

    Forever, I admit I thought it was a wasted pick but because of the stress fractures in his ankles. But I will man up and with full disclosure that I am totally surprised with Len’s nose for the ball and overall skills.

    Sure, he looks awkward right now but we both can see through that and see he knows how to play ball. Growing up the first skill you learn is getting the ball. Len goes inside among the trees and does just that.

    I couldn’t tell if he was another Patrick O’Bryant, Robert Swift, Fab Melo or former Suns William Bedford.

    Very convincingly he has shown more talent in a very short time than all four of them combined.

  • vtsunrise

    BOLD PREDICTION: The Suns will go 0-37 the rest of the way!

    That way, I can claim to have been accurate with my initial 27-55 pre-season prediction.

    Say what!?

    Wow. Even without Bledsoe, they’ve hung in there. My reality-check adjustment made halfway through December led me to a revised 45-37 forecast. Looking at all the games to date, the Suns are just 1 win off that pace, presuming they lose to the Pacers tonight. So, they’re on track to 44-38.

    From today’s 27-18, they’d go 17-20 the rest of the way. Tough sledding. But playoff bound most likely. Then, with a healthy Bledsoe let’s hope, and playing up to the level of their competition, we could see something interesting.

  • BCrayZ

    Not Sherman, John.

    First, let’s see if Gogi is well enough to play.

    Jeff sees these guys in practice & only he knows what he sees. We only see them during the game. What I see is that our rookie is a freak of nature (in a good way) but then so is our “Blur.” Jeff should be comfortable with Barbosa’s b-ball IQ (except when out of position playing the point). Our rookie is a very poor finisher at the rim at the NBA level in a real game. This may explain why LB gets consistently on the plus side (+/-) each game & why the Suns have won 5 of 6 games since he has come back. Just like Archie, Barbosa has elite athleticism. Jeff has tried to bring the rookie along in a real game situation, but he finds that it just does not work. Even before LB came here, Archie would quickly put the team in a hole. Look at his horrendous (+/-) & it is obvious to anyone who knows the game that this is the reason he was getting so few minutes & why Jeff would have to pull him out of the game right away. Gogi is hurt & may not be able to play. Will this force Jeff’s hand? Will Archie then get playing time? Much more likely, in my opinion, that the extra playing time. (more than 30 minutes a game worth) goes to a combination of Ish, LB & even Diante. Archie may well have a very bright future but he has not proven, at any level (Wildcats, Jam, Suns) to be a valuable contributor to winning a game. Playing him is just not fair to the rest of the team. Even DJ Strawberry, Zabian Dowdell & Sean Singletary were much more successful in their winning performances than Archie has been. Will not even honor your point of Barbosa’s 3-point shooting (career 40%) with your ridiculously small sample size for this year. Just wait & see that he will get that deep shot back. Like riding a bicycle. Even if Gogi can play, I would consider moving GG14 to the 3, but like what PJ gives to our team, in order to make room for Barbosa in our starting unit, where he can play with Gogi & Frye. This is only in small part out of nostalgia but much more so because it has proven that it will be successful for our team. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS.

  • Pingback: Preview: Phoenix Suns (27-18) at Indiana Pacers (35-9)

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    Wow! Seriously, you are just messing with us, right?

    The Suns are winning because of Gerald Green and Markieff Morris.

    Your ridiculous obsession with the +/- stat makes about as much sense as when I pointed out the seven Suns losses this month was due to the fact that Len didn’t play significant minutes.

    Goodwin’s struggles are the reason they brought in the 31 year-old veteran. BUT since Barbosa is NOT shooting any better than the rookie, Goodwin should be getting the court time.

    Barbosa is a relic from a bygone era and it is an absurd comparison saying that Barbosa has the same elite athleticism as the 19 year-old Goodwin.

    You FINALLY acknowledge Barbosa isn’t a PG but an undersized 6′-3″ SG who at 31 is looking at “elite” athleticism in the rear-view mirror.

    Goodwin is 6′-5″ with a 6′-10″ wingspan and with 36″ hops. Kobe came into the league as a 18 year-old phenom but the Lakers played him 15 minutes his rookie season and by his third season he started all eight of the Lakers playoff games averaging 20 points per and shooting 35% from beyond the arc.

    Out with the old and in with the FUTURE!

    Barbosa can join D’Antoni, Nash, Amare and Marion and reminiscence about the good ol’ days when they were relevant in the NBA.

  • HushPuppy


    Thank you for saying what I came to this post to say. That being, where is everyone who said Len was a bust and that we should trade him? Like you, I agree that we should give them a free pass, but that’s what happens when people pass judgement on an injured player 1 and 2 months in to the season.

    “Trade Nerleans Noel, he’s a bust, he is never going to amount to anything. Noel has a +/- of 0(!!) and he hasn’t recorded a single NBA stat yet. Philly should cut their losses and trade him for a second round pick.”

    Len is no Royce White, that’s for certain.

    In my opinion the starting lineup is fine right now. With Bledsoe out, Green should continue to start and Tucker should stay at the 3. Why fix what’s not broken? What would Barbosa provide us in the starting lineup that Green doesn’t? Size, athletisism, shooting? Nope. Barbosa is fine where he is, a change-of-pace-guard that can come in and fluster slower bench members of opposing teams. Tucker is the glue guy that good teams need. The guy that brings his PB&J sandwich wrapped in tin foil to the coal mine every morning. The guy that will give you half of nothing and make you thank him for it. I like the line-ups how they are givin the players we have, moving Barbosa in to the starting line-up would force us to sacrifce size, shooting, rebounding, defense, and spreading the court for a guy that will only bring the ability to turn on the jets and (hopefully) finish on a fast break.

  • john

    My stance on Len after the draft was that I thought he would bust (relative to what you would normally expect from a #5 overall pick), but I thought he was the right pick, if that makes any sense.

    The only three guys who made any sense at that point in time were Len, Noel, and McLemore. I wouldn’t touch McLemore with a 10-foot pole, and I trust that the training staff made the right call on which big to take based on injury risk. So, Len was the right guy at that spot.

    I still don’t think he’ll turn into much more than a good contributor who most teams in the NBA would love to have, but no one will be DYING to have. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong (in a good way for the Suns, of course)!

  • john

    And @BCrayZ

    I might not agree with a lot of what you say, but I love getting your perspective. Don’t take the criticism too hard. I think everyone here enjoys hearing your point of view. I know I do.

  • Bandwagon Fan

    Do people really expect Goodwin to be the next Kobe Bryant in terms of talent???

    LB was a good pick up for the remainder of the season and I don’t think anyone would seriously argue that. If you just look at box scores, then I can see why you would argue for Goodwin over LB but there is more value in this veteran than a wild rookie when a playoff birth is on the line. I don’t think Horny is so dumb as to, for whatever reason, play LB over Goodwin if Goodwin is the better player right now.

    I think it’s difficult for some to grasp that this team is no longer on a mission for a top five pick but a top five playoff birth.

    As for Green, I think the change for him could be the fact that he isn’t relying on the 3 pointers and has expanded his game to include a mid range. Not only does he seem to have a better mid game but this also opens up the 3 for him as well. But let’s not kid ourselves, Green will be back on the bench when Bledsoe comes back into the starting lineup.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Goran is out of the lineup tonight even if he can play. With the sore elbow, on a back to back, against the team with the best record, I could see Horny pulling a Popovich and keeping out Dragic to mess with the Pacer’s psyche. We’re supposed to lose this game anyway, right? Right??

  • Foreveris2long

    EBJM and John I acknowledge your hesitancy about Len. I admit it was not an easy call when the guy could not play and there was no indication when he would play. A lot of people questioned his mediocrity in college but probably did not realize his point guards were not very good.

    EBJM glad you see some of the intangibles that I think is going to make him a good NBA starting center one day. John obviously it is just my opinion but I think he will be better than Robin Lopez who is a starting center on a good Portland team. Len and Plumlee are going to make each other reach their potential because complacency is not a part of their DNA.

    Hush Puppy you got it. IMO not only does it take centers longer to evolve but coming off of two ankle surgeries and not playing for months, patience was needed. Perhaps some did not see him in college and did not know his upside but I knew he had better than average athleticism and was aggressive around the basket. Good call Hush.

    Regarding LB and Goodwin I think in addition to Barbosa being a veteran during the playoff run who should make better decisions with the ball, most importantly defenses respect him as a shooter whereas they do not respect Goodwin yet. HOWEVER if Goodwin starts hitting a few jumpers when he does play, his defensive skills will earn him more minutes. Goodwin is a much better defender than Barbosa and the Suns had a winning record when he played so he was not a slouch. I do not place as much weight on plus minus numbers as others. IMO he just got caught up in trying to prove he was good and forgot about the team concept. The bench and D-League has a way of humbling players.

    If Bledsoe comes back this year Barbosa likely will not see much action if any in the playoffs as Green will be the 3rd guard.

  • CART Jeff

    Tonight, I would like to see Ish, LB, and Green together putting crazy pressure on the ball. Harass the crap out of them. Go Suns!

  • DZ

    At this point in their respective NBA careers the one thing that Barbosa has over Goodwin is experience. If the Suns were as bad as everyone predicted they would be before the season started, I’m sure he would be getting plenty of on the court experience this year. But the Suns are so much better than anyone expected that not signing Barbosa (or another vet) when Bledsoe went down and throwing Goodwin into a role he wasn’t ready for could have not only hurt the team but could have hurt Goodwin’s development. I’m not saying it would have but it could have.

    As for Len, it looks like the Suns were correct in keeping him inactive until his soreness was gone. Having him in with the bench unit could be a game changer if he can keep grabbing rebounds.

    I was just reading the McMiracle has said that he’s fine with doing no trades before the trade deadline. To me that’s GM-speak for, “Don’t bother me unless you’ve got a serious deal in mind.” I’m sure he’s open to listening to offers for Okafor’s contract but he’s not going to give up much more than that unless someone comes up with a super offer.

  • HunterSThompson