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Tempers Flare As Bucks Fall To Suns

Phoenix’s Gerald Green flies in for a windmill dunk as Gary Neal looks on.

Despite shooting 54.4 percent from the field and knocking down 10 three-pointers, the Bucks fell to the Suns 116-100 Saturday night.

Phoenix jumped out to a 28-26 first quarter lead and extended the margin to 11 points by halftime. The Bucks kept things close for much of the second half before Phoenix pulled away for good midway through the fourth quarter. Markieff Morris hit three consecutive shots within a two minute span to silence a Bucks mini-run and extend the Phoenix lead to 16 with 6:18 remaining.

Phoenix was led by Gerald Green’s 24 points and career-high five steals. Starting in place of the injured Eric Bledsoe, Green shot 9-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Goran Dragic chipped in 15 points and six assists, while Channing Frye added 22 points and seven rebounds. Frye also made six three-pointers and turned in a game-high +44 rating.

Milwaukee shot uncharacteristically well from the field, more than 12 percentage points above its season average of 42.5 percent (fourth-worst in the league). Brandon Knight led the way with 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go with eight assists and four rebounds. O.J. Mayo broke out of his extended slump, adding 20 points and five assists off the bench. Larry Sanders scored seven points and grabbed just two rebounds in 26 minutes.

After the game, Sanders and Gary Neal were reportedly involved in a heated exchange near the locker room. Per the Arizona Republic:

Gary Neal and Larry Sanders got into a shouting match with media present. At one point, Neal yelled, “I earn my money. Why don’t you try it?”

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel added that Sanders “questioned Neal’s attitude.”

Neal was yelling loudly as he exited the locker room and Sanders would not comment on the argument as he exited. Earlier Bucks strength and conditioning coach Robert Hackett stepped between the two players to try to keep the situation from escalating.

O.J. Mayo downplayed the exchange, stating, “A little team bonding, man, that’s all. A little kumbaya, man. It’s all good.”

Game notes:

– Former Bucks Ish Smith and Slava Kravtsov both saw the floor for the Suns (a rare occurrence for Slava). Smith scored eight points and handed out eight assists in 19 minutes, while Kravtsov had one rebound in three minutes.

– The exchange between Sanders and Neal is the first instance of teammate-on-teammate arguing we’ve heard about this season. Reports surfaced near the end of last season that locker room unrest was a common occurrence, and the team made a point to bring in high character players this summer.

– Giannis Antetokounmpo was a virtual non-factor in what was likely the worst game of his young career. The rookie did not score and turned the ball over four times while committing three fouls in just 14 minutes. His struggles enabled O.J. Mayo to play 31 minutes, his most since Dec. 20.

– The loss is Milwaukee’s 10th in its last 12 games and drops them to a league-worst 7-26.

Game highs

Points: Knight (25), Green (24)

Assists: Knight (8), Smith (8)

Rebounds: Butler (7), Plumlee (9)

Blocks: Four tied (1), Frye (2)

Full highlights

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Tags: Gary Neal Larry Sanders Milwaukee Bucks

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