Khris Middleton scored 35 points and Malcolm Brogdon added a career-high 32 as the Milwaukee Bucks overcame the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo for a second straight game and the firing of head coach Jason Kidd earlier in the day to beat the Phoenix Suns, 109-105, Monday night at the Bradley Center.
Antetokounmpo’s absence was scheduled, part of a plan established last week to rest a sore right knee. Kidd’s firing, though, came as a shock Monday afternoon despite Milwaukee’s 23-22 record this season and recent stretch of inconsistent play.
But sensing the need for a change, general manager Jon Horst made the call — with approval from the team’s ownership group — and installed Kidd’s top assistant, Joe Prunty, into the interim role for the remainder of the season.
With Antetokounmpo out, Prunty moved Brogdon and Sterling Brown into Milwaukee’s starting lineup, giving the Bucks a three-guard set that wreaked havoc on Phoenix defensively, forcing 21 turnovers and holding Devin Booker to 14 points on 2-of-14 shooting after he’d scored 73 points in his last two games.
T.J. Warren led the Suns with 23 points and Greg Monroe, shipped to Phoenix from Milwaukee earlier this season in the Eric Bledsoe trade, finished with 19 and grabbed seven rebounds.
Offensively, Milwaukee shot 53.5 percent with Brogdon and Middleton combining to go 24-of-32 from the floor and 5-of-8 from distance.
After falling behind by 10 in the opening quarter, the Bucks got eight from Bledsoe in the second and went into the locker room tied at 53 at halftime.
Phoenix committed five turnovers in the first 6:30 of the third and trailed by as many as seven before closing the quarter strong to take a 79-76 lead into the fourth.
Brogdon capped off a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer that put Milwaukee back in front, 85-83, with 7:12 to play.
The Suns rallied to make it a 101-100 game when Monroe converted a three-point play with 1:49 remaining, but after Isaiah Canaan picked off a bad pass from John Henson, Troy Daniels and Canaan missed 3-point attempts.
Middleton scored on back-to-back possessions to push the Bucks’ lead to five and they hung on from there.
—Field Level Media