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Suns visit Bucks in matchup of top-tier teams

·3-min read
NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Milwaukee Bucks

The Western Conference's second-place team, the Phoenix Suns, will open a five-game road swing Monday night when they play the Eastern Conference's third-place Milwaukee Bucks.

Phoenix comes in with the NBA's second-best overall record and wins in 11 of its past 13 games, though the Suns had a four-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 111-85 loss to San Antonio. The 26-point blowout marks Phoenix's worst loss of the season.

"I hate the fact that we lost," Suns coach Monty Williams said in his postgame press conference. "But I'm excited because it proves that when we play a certain way, in reference to defending well, sharing the ball and playing with a great deal of force; i.e, competing, we're a pretty good team."

Saturday's loss deviated from the qualities that have made Phoenix one of the league's breakout teams in 2020-21, both offensively -- with the Suns failing to score in triple digits for the first time since Jan. 27 -- and defensively.

Phoenix ranks fifth in the NBA in defending the 3-pointer at 34.8 percent but gave up 41.4 percent from behind the arc to the Spurs. The Suns rank fourth in the league in scoring defense, allowing 107.8 per game, but they have given up at least 111 points in three of their past four games.

They can expect another test of their defense on Monday when facing Milwaukee, the NBA's highest-scoring offense at 119.1 points per game.

The Bucks scored 120 points or more over a three-game winning streak heading into their 128-115 loss Saturday against Memphis.

Despite the defeat, all five Milwaukee starters scored in double figures. Two-time reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo was productive in his second game back from a six-game absence due to a knee injury, getting 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Antetokounmpo played 29 minutes, well below his season average approaching 34, to avoid overwork in his return from injury.

"It's hard to not be out there and not compete for the whole fourth quarter, but at the end of the day, I know (what) the goal is, so you've just got to execute the plan," he said in his postgame press conference.

Milwaukee also got 16 points and 10 assists from Khris Middleton on Saturday, plus 17 points and seven assists from Jrue Holiday. The Bucks' bench, however, totaled just 18 points.

In Phoenix's 125-124 win over Milwaukee on Feb. 10, Antetokounmpo scored 47 points, but the Bucks' reserves finished with just 22.

Phoenix leaned on its backcourt duo in the prior meeting, with Devin Booker going for 30 points and Chris Paul adding 28 points and seven assists.

Since scoring 29 points in an overtime win over NBA-leading Utah on April 7, Paul has not scored more than 13 points in Phoenix's six subsequent games. Teammate Deandre Ayton, meanwhile, had at least 18 points in six of his seven games since April 5 before finishing with just eight against San Antonio.

--Field Level Media