The Phoenix Suns had things lined up in their favor for this game against a heavily depleted Milwaukee Bucks team who were forced to start combo forward Ersan Ilysova at center. But as Suns fans know all too well, it's one thing to have an advantage and it's another thing to use it. Tonight, the Suns used it as they went to their superior size and skill to pound the ball inside and take a 52-31 lead at the half.
The Bucks only managed four points in the paint and shot just 24.4 percent as the Suns active and bigger defenders cut off the lane and forced the Bucks into repeated bad shots. The Suns added a 30-20 rebounding advantage to their 24-4 points in the paint domination and the rout was on by the end of two periods.
"It was a very humbling game. Obviously, we were short-handed but we didn't have a ton of energy and we didn't have great focus. We looked like mummies in the first half a little bit the way we were walking around out there," Bucks Coach Scott Skiles said.
The rout was suspended during the fourth quarter when the Suns got a bit lax and gave up an 11-3 run to let the Bucks cut the lead to nine points. Nash was forced to come back in for a fourth quarter he should have been able to rest through. Steve restored order and the Suns were able to close out the game in comfort.
"I couldn't emphasize enough that these guys weren't going to quit playing. We missed some shots and then had some defensive break downs," Alvin Gentry said about the fourth quarter let down.
The Suns were led by Marcin Gortat, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the win. The Suns went to Gortat in the pick and roll but also tried to get him going in the paint against smaller Bucks players.
Jared Dudley said that Marcin was a little passive in the block and they are looking for him to score or draw double teams. Gortat explained why he struggled against the Bucks defenders.
"I was trying to battle over their two undersized big mans. I've got to tell you, for me it's really uncomfortable to play against undersized big men. Their leverage is lower than mine and it's harder to push them and both of these guys have a lot of energy so it was tough game for me," Gortat said.
It should be noted that Gortat didn't start playing organized basketball until he was 17 years old by which time coaches had him focus more on his defense.
The Suns have now defeated the Bucks in Phoenix for the 23rd straight time and have now won their seventh straight game on Groundhog Day.