In the final game of what has been a hectic road trip, a win would have done the Milwaukee Bucks a lot of good before finally heading home.
Taking on the Phoenix Suns, who have been putting the pieces together lately, Milwaukee faced an uphill battle when it was announced that both Brook Lopez, who has been out for personal reasons, and Damian Lillard, who has been battling a bad ankle, would be out of the lineup. Still, the show had to go on without those two key starters.
Things got worse for the Bucks shortly into the game when Khris Middleton came down on the foot of Kevin Durant, which resulted in a flagrant for KD. While Middleton stayed in the game for a bit, it was short-lived, as he was soon ruled out due to an ankle injury. X-rays came back negative, but Middleton left the arena on crutches and in a walking boot. This is not what the Bucks needed right now.
From that point on, Giannis Antetokounmpo did everything in his power to will this team to a win, but it simply wasn't enough. Despite being a rather close game throughout, the Suns got just enough stops in the end to earn a 114-106 victory, sending the Bucks home with a 1-4 record in the Doc Rivers era.
An unorthodox yet impressive Milwaukee Bucks' streak snaps in loss to Phoenix Suns
The loss to Phoenix marked the first time Milwaukee had lost on a Tuesday since April 2021, as they had won 26 consecutive Tuesday games before dropping this one. That's undoubtedly a unique stat, and it's a shame that it had to end.
As mentioned, Giannis did what he could to try to extend the streak. With three of the starters out, the Suns could focus more on Antetokounmpo, who put up 34 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists despite the hounding defense. He did have five turnovers, which undeniably hurt, but it's hard to hound him about it too much when he's being tasked to do everything.
Malik Beasley tried to pick up the slack for the injured Bucks, scoring 22 points on 6-of-14 shooting from 3-point range. Those are solid numbers, but it felt like the guard still left something on the table, as he missed a handful of tremendous looks that looked great leaving his hands. Yet, he did have to put in extra effort on defense, taking on the toughest assignments like Devin Booker or Bradley Beal.
Elsewhere, Milwaukee got double-digit scoring performances out of Pat Connaughton, Jae Crowder, and Cameron Payne. However, with Brook Lopez out, the Bucks needed Bobby Portis to pick up some of the workload, but he failed. In 31 minutes, he had a measly five points on 2-of-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds. He did have four steals, but that could not overshadow his sluggish shooting.
Portis cannot have this type of performance when the Bucks are missing Lopez, let alone two other starters on top of that. He's supposed to be the glue and a tone-setter for this second unit, but much like most of the season, he just simply hasn't been that player.
Meanwhile, the Bucks had a tough time guarding Phoenix's Big 3. Devin Booker had 32 points, KD had 28 points and Bradley Beal had 25 points. Giannis did a great job when defending Durant, and Beasley did what he could to slow down the other two, but no one else could hold a candle to them. This was just further reinforcement that the Bucks need to trade for defensive help as soon as possible.
The 2024 NBA Trade Deadline is just a day away, and this matchup against Phoenix could very well be the last time several of these players will have played in a Bucks uniform.
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