Both teams are coming off a loss, perhaps the result of having been a bit distracted by what they considered to be omissions on the lists of All-Star reserves announced earlier in the week.
After Giannis Antetokounmpo had complained that the Bucks, who easily sport the best record in the NBA at 41-7, deserved more than two All-Stars, the club didn’t perform like the league’s best when overwhelmed by travel-weary Denver in the second half of a 127-115 home defeat on Friday night.
«We weren’t very good,» Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer observed to reporters afterward. «Got to coach better, play better, smarter.»
Playing without George Hill (strained left hamstring) and Donte DiVincenzo (sore left ankle), the Bucks were down to just one of their top three ballhandlers. But that was Eric Bledsoe, the guy Antetokounmpo insisted belonged on the All-Star team.
Bledsoe put up decent numbers with 15 points and seven assists in his 32 minutes, but the veteran’s minus-12 plus/minus was the game’s second worst.
The loss ended a nine-game winning streak and put the Bucks in a position where they have thrived this season. They responded to each of their previous six losses with a win, five times igniting winning streaks of at least three games.
Milwaukee will put its 22-3 home record up against a team that’s been much better on the road than in its own arena this season. The Suns have won six of their last nine road games, with Portland, Boston, San Antonio and Dallas being among the victims.
The shockingly easy 133-104 win at Dallas on Tuesday came immediately before a 111-107 home loss to Oklahoma City on Friday in a game in which Devin Booker went for 27 points.
That snapped a string of three straight with 30 or more points for Booker, whose perceived snub in the All-Star selections received disapproval from many points on the NBA map, including his own comments in Phoenix.
«It was always a goal of mine,» he admitted to reporters in the wake of the announcement. «It just re-proves the point that the NBA is different than the game that I fell in love with at the beginning — of all the best players in the All-Star Game — growing up, watching it. Now it’s an entertainment-, drama-, political-field league.
Booker and Antetokounmpo have gone head-to-head five times in their careers, with Booker holding a 3-2 advantage in points scored.
Phoenix swept the two-game season series last year, winning at Milwaukee despite Antetokounmpo’s 35 points, then taking the rematch in Phoenix when Booker outscored the league’s Most Valuable Player 22-21.
The meeting between the Bucks and Suns will be their first of the season, with Milwaukee already having gone 5-0 against the other four Pacific Division teams.
Phoenix has countered by going 9-6 against Eastern Conference clubs, as opposed to just 11-22 against rivals from the West.
–Field Level Media