Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns Pick & Prediction MARCH 17th 2024

The Phoenix Suns will try to close out a winning Eastern Conference road swing when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.

Milwaukee, which is 2-3 since March 6, seeks consecutive wins for the first time since it won its sixth straight game on March 4. Forward Khris Middleton is set to return from a left ankle sprain as the Bucks try to get back on track.

On Thursday, the Bucks (43-24) rallied to outscore the Philadelphia 76ers in the fourth quarter 34-22 and 61-44 over the second half in a 114-105 win. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 13 of his game-high 32 points in the final period.

Milwaukee also saw a key fourth-quarter contribution from A.J. Green, who helped hold Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey to just one point and 0-of-5 shooting from the field in the final period.

The 114 points the Bucks scored fell short of their season average of 120.4, which ranks fourth highest in the NBA. But the stout defensive effort was what coach Doc Rivers said he hopes to see more of down the stretch.

“With our size, to me, if we’re going to get into that mud wrestling or a track meet, I want the mud,” he said. “It kind of fits what we should be.”

Middleton will bring his 6-foot-7 frame into the defensive mix. His injury occurred against the Suns on Feb. 6, with the Bucks going 10-6 while he was out as the team tried to replace his 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

Milwaukee heads into Sunday’s matinee and rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals ranked in the lower-third for scoring defense at 117.1 points allowed per game.

Phoenix (39-28) comes in scoring 116.8 points per game. The Suns’ defense, which allows 114.2 points, delivered its stingiest performance in more than two months on Friday in a 107-96 road win over the Charlotte Hornets.

The Suns are to 2-1 on their four-game road trip and held an opponent to fewer than 100 points for the first time since Jan. 5 in a 113-97 victory over the Miami Heat.

The win over Charlotte was also a rebound from Phoenix’s 127-112 loss to the NBA-leading Boston Celtics, which marked the Suns’ highest defensive yield since a Feb. 2 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Phoenix heads into Milwaukee seventh in the Western Conference and looking to move up one spot to avoid the play-in round for the postseason. Bradley Beal did not downplay the significance that a win over the East’s second-place Bucks would carry.

“It’s huge,” Beal said, according to The Arizona Republic. “They’re all important. (Milwaukee is) competing, playing hard. We’ve just got to figure out their group.”

Central to Milwaukee’s lineup is the two-time MVP Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 30.8 points and 11.2 rebounds. Veteran guard Damian Lillard is averaging 24.3 points and 6.9 assists.

Phoenix did not see Lillard in the last meeting, a 114-106 Suns win in Phoenix on Feb. 6.

The Suns’ big three of Beal, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker combined for 85 points in the victory as Booker led the group with 32, while Durant and Beal each had 25. Durant’s 28.1 points per game lead the trio on the season, with Booker averaging 27.3 and Beal chipping in 18.6.

Phoenix big man Jusuf Nurkic is scoring 11.6 points with 11.1 rebounds per game. With 21 rebounds at Charlotte and 20 boards vs. Boston, Nurkic is just the second player in Suns franchise history with consecutive 20-plus rebound games.

–Field Level Media

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