Damian Lillard notches impressive franchise first in Bucks' triumphant win over Suns

Phoenix Suns v Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

Looking to avenge an ugly loss to them last month, the Milwaukee Bucks welcomed the Phoenix Suns to Fiserv Forum Sunday afternoon.

While the Bucks were set to get Khris Middleton back in the lineup after missing over a month, they would be without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was a late scratch. That would force others to step up to the plate, and they did just that as Milwaukee got one of the most all-around complete games out of their entire team this season.

Milwaukee came out hot, hitting 18 triples in the first half alone, which tied the all-time league record. The Bucks led by over 20 at half, but the Suns did not go down from there. They clawed back into the game in the second half, cutting their deficit to single digits. However, thanks to some clutch play and composure, the Bucks managed to hold off the Suns.

The shorthanded Bucks secured a 140-129 win on their home floor, improving to 9-3 following the NBA All-Star break.

Damian Lillard notches impressive franchise first in Bucks' triumphant win over Suns

With Giannis out, all eyes were on Damian Lillard to take charge. He was up to the task, having one of his best games of the season. Early on, the guard made an impact with his passing, finding his open teammates again and again. The guard commanded the offense and finished with 16 assists, which tied a career-high.

Yet, when the Suns started making their run in the third, Lillard took it upon himself to put points on the board to combat it. With 4:27 left in the third, Lillard converted on a layup and proceeded to tally Milwaukee's next 14 points, including a 32-foot bomb from long distance at the buzzer.

Finishing with 31 points and 16 assists, Lillard became the first Buck in franchise history to notch over 30 points and 15 assists in a game. That's an incredible feat from the guard in his first season with the team, showcasing that he can score and facilitate at the highest level.

Yet, Lillard was not the only Buck to hit the 31-point mark in this one, as he got some assistance from Bobby Portis off of the bench. The big man started the matchup off on an absolute heater, hitting the 25-point mark with 6:03 left in the second quarter. Obviously, his scoring onslaught slowed after that, but it was that hot start that helped Milwaukee get into a groove early.

With 31 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two assists, Portis continued his recent string of strong play following the NBA All-Star break.

Khris Middleton also needs his flowers. After missing over a month with an ankle injury, he returned to the lineup and immediately found his footing. The forward nailed an assortment of difficult jumpers in this one no matter who the Suns threw in his direction. Playing 25 minutes, he finished with 22 points and seven assists on 53.3 percent field goal shooting. Welcome back, Middleton.

Milwaukee's hot shooting (24-of-41 from three, 58.5 percent) was a significant reason why they won this contest, and two role players who helped fuel that success were Jae Crowder and Malik Beasley.

Suiting up against his former squad, Crowder scored 18 points on four-made triples. He tallied eight points in the final five and a half minutes, coming up clutch for Milwaukee in arguably his best effort of the entire season. Crowder had been struggling mightily on offense since his return from injury, so it was beyond welcoming to see him tally his second-highest point total of the season.

Beasley had also been struggling to find the bottom of the net lately but had no such issue against the Suns, clocking in 17 points on five made 3-pointers. With another game of five or more 3-point makes, Beasley keeps adding onto an impressive franchise record previously held by Ray Allen.

On the other side of the ball, Bradley Beal led the way for Phoenix with 28 points, while former Buck Grayson Allen followed his lead with 25. Devin Booker joined the 20-point club with 23, but perhaps the most surprising line for the Suns was that Kevin Durant had 11 points on 10 shot attempts. The Bucks did a great job of sending different defenders at him, and they all pestered him.

This was a fantastic win for the Bucks without Giannis Antetokounmpo. Now, they will look ahead to a crucial game against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. Hopefully they will have the Greek Freak back on the floor for that one in what will be a good test for two of the East's top teams.

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