Buoyed by defeat of Lakers, Suns seek sweep of Bucks
The NBA-worst Phoenix Suns seem to be an unlikely candidate to pull off a season sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Still, the Suns will have that opportunity when they host the NBA-best Bucks on Monday.
Phoenix stunned the Bucks 116-114 in Milwaukee on Nov. 23 when it scored the game's final eight points. Veteran shooting guard Jamal Crawford hit the decisive 17-foot jumper with 0.8 seconds left to finish off the late-game flurry.
Impressive victories -- even wins in general -- have been in short supply for the Suns (13-51) but they posted another solid one on Saturday night.
Lowly Phoenix outplayed LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers to earn a 118-109 home triumph. The victory was just the second in 20 games for the Suns, who began that stretch with a franchise-worst, 17-game losing streak.
"We showed we can close games, execute in crunch time, having enough discipline," Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov said after the victory. "They were coming hard at us."
Rookie center Deandre Ayton led the way with 26 points and 10 rebounds for his 33rd double-double of the season.
The No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft also was the primary defender on James, a tactic that led to James giving up the ball more than usual. The Lakers were slow to adjust as Phoenix took a 17-point lead into the final stanza.
"I think Deandre accepted the challenge, understanding that it was a key matchup," Kokoskov said. "Building the wall so we don't have to deal with his post-up isolations. Overall, I think it was a big part of the defensive kind of strategy of the game plan, and he executed pretty well."
Milwaukee had a 10-game road winning streak halted on Saturday when it blew a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead and succumbed 115-111 to the Utah Jazz.
The setback snapped a seven-game overall winning streak and was just the third loss in the past 22 games for the Bucks (48-15).
All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had a huge game by recording 43 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. But Milwaukee was missing its starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe (back) and Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fasciitis) and couldn't stop Utah star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, who scored a career-high 46 points.
"It was a great fight," Bucks center Brook Lopez said after matching his career high of seven blocked shots. "I don't think anyone expected anything else. Obviously, I know we all wanted to come out with a win, so we're pretty disappointed. It's an unfortunate ending. I was proud of the team's focus."
It isn't clear if either Bledsoe or Brogdon will be available against the Suns. There is more concern about Brogdon's right foot as the 26-year-old came up sore after scoring 21 points in Friday's win over the Lakers.
"It's just something that's kind of been there," Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said of Brogdon's injury. "Again, trying to manage it, trying to be proactive and trying to be aggressive and get ahead of it. He feels it on different days, different times and back-to-backs are obviously the hardest thing for all of us."
The early season loss to the Suns ended Milwaukee's six-game winning streak in the series. The Bucks also have won five of their last six games in Phoenix after losing the previous 24.
Antetokounmpo had 35 points and 10 rebounds in the November loss to the Suns. Star shooting guard Devin Booker had 29 points and seven assists for Phoenix.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 3, 2019