A much-anticipated inter-conference showdown between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns will kick-start the NBA week on Monday. Both are coming off decisively lopsided losses. The Suns couldn’t get anything going offensively in a 111-85 loss at home to the San Antonio Spurs, while the Bucks got rolled at the Fiserv Forum in a 128-115 defeat at the hands of the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.
Not a good start for the SunsWe’re about to learn a lot about the Suns over the course of their next seven games.
All of the opponents coming up, including the Bucks, are playoff contenders with at least five of the games being on the road. The Suns are still clinging to second place behind the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference standings with the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets breathing down their neck. And the Los Angeles Lakers could obviously start knocking once Anthony Davis and LeBron James return.
But this run will either make or break the Suns’ position in the standings. It will also go a long way in answering whether they’re contenders or pretenders in the toughest conference in basketball. They’re off to a bad start after suffering a horrific 111-85 loss to the Spurs on Saturday.
The murderer’s row portion of the schedule for the Suns starts on Monday at the Fiserv Forum against the Bucks. While San Antonio has been a decent defensive team at times this season, the Bucks are ranked top-10 in defensive efficiency. So it’ll be a step up in defensive pressure for a Suns team that struggled offensively over the weekend. Granted, that still didn’t stop Devin Booker and company from dropping 125 points on the Bucks in a 125-124 victory back in February.
But they also gave up 47 points to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“The Greek Freak” could wreck the game for them again with a different outcome this time out. The Suns clearly have to score more than 100 points to even be competitive against the Bucks’ No. 1-ranked scoring offense, but they also have to get stops on the defensive end of the floor. They are one of the top-five best defensive teams in basketball right now. It needs to show in their ability to slow down the complementary players around Antetokounmpo.
A defensive letdown for the BucksWhat went right for the Bucks in Saturday’s 128-115 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies?
That’s the question people should be asking after watching them get bullied on their home floor. They turned the ball over 16 times and allowed 54.8 percent shooting in a game where Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen played like he was back at Duke.
If the Bucks can’t stop Allen, they might as well wave the white flag against Devin Booker. It’ll be a tall task in defending one of the league’s premier guards. Throw the veteran Chris Paul into the mix and they’ll be tasked with defending two premier guards. The Suns’ backcourt is a problem on both ends of the floor.
This is the game where the Bucks have to buckle down and show a little consistency. There have been games like they had against the Grizzlies when it looks like they’re just going through the motions. They have to respond in a big way on Monday with a resurgent defensive effort.
But they also have to knock down buckets if it’s off to the races with another top-10 scoring offense. I’m not so much concerned with Giannis Antetokounmpo as I’d be with Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Those guys have to step up offensively to avoid a third straight loss at home.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Suns are 17-4 ATS in their last 21 games following an ATS loss.
- Suns are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games against a team with a winning % above .600.
- Suns are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 road games against a team with a winning home record.
- Suns are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games as a road underdog.
- Bucks are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game.
- Bucks are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games following an ATS loss.
- Bucks are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games following a straight up loss.
- Bucks are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games as a home favorite.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Bucks have quietly been on a downward spiral in recent outings.
It’s easy to miss with them padding their record with the three road wins in between two home losses in games where they gave up 127-plus points. Granted, their victory over the Atlanta Hawks was impressive, but the other two wins came against two of the worst teams in the league, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic.
There is something missing from the Bucks when comparing them to some of the other contending teams in the league. Personally, I’d wager it being a lack of toughness that a player like Chris Paul has brought to a young Suns team. Make no mistake, Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best players in the world, but the Bucks seem to react differently when they get punched in the mouth.
The Suns will punch them in the mouth offensively on their home floor, and the game will eventually get away from them. Antetokounmpo will load up his offensive stat sheet, but the result will remain the same as the first meeting between these two teams.
I’m taking the points and the Suns.
Full-Game Total Pick
What happens when two of the best two-way teams in basketball go head-to-head? Offense, of course. Offense happens.
The Suns and Bucks had an epic offensive shootout back in February, and I’m expecting them to pick right back up where they left off in that game. You can rest assured Chris Paul has been giving his team the veteran speech behind closed doors after their ugly performance against the Spurs on Saturday. They’ll come into this meeting ready with an emphatic response. Meanwhile, the Bucks are coming into this game averaging 119.1 points as the league’s top-ranked offense. Give me the over in this one.