Bucks pull out OT win in Bledsoe’s return to Phoenix
PHOENIX — Eric Bledsoe expected to be booed in his return to Phoenix. He also expected those boos to drive him to play even better against his former team.
Bledsoe had 30 points and seven assists 15 days after being traded by the Phoenix Suns, and Khris Middleton put up a game-high 40 in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 113-107 overtime win on Wednesday.
Bledsoe was traded to Milwaukee on Nov. 7, a few weeks after tweeting that he didn’t want to be in Phoenix. Bledsoe, who was booed during introductions and each time he touched the ball in the first half, helped the Bucks overcome the absence of star Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) and losing Gary Payton II (ankle sprain) in the first half to beat the Suns for the fifth straight time.
Did he feed off the hostile crowd?
“You see,” Bledsoe said with a smile.
“Of course I (expected boos). It is what it is. The fans are just cheering for their team. You can’t blame them for that. My teammates did a hell of a job. I couldn’t credit them more. As much as I wanted to win this game, they had my back. Giannis is out and a couple of guys had to be more aggressive and step up.”
And with that, Bledsoe said he was ready to move on.
“Everybody’s in a better situation. They’re in a better situation. I’m in a better situation. It’s over with.”
Devin Booker scored 23 points for the Suns and forced overtime with a 29-foot turnaround jumper as time expired. But Milwaukee outscored Phoenix 8-2 in overtime to claim its third straight win in Phoenix following 24 consecutive losses.
Greg Monroe, obtained by Phoenix in the Bledsoe deal, scored 22 points and had 15 rebounds in his best game with the Suns. But Phoenix (7-12), who had 32 assists in a win against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, committed a season-high 29 turnovers, including four in overtime.
“That’s it right there,” Phoenix interim coach Jay Triano said. “We turned it over on the first three possessions (of overtime) and you have to be better than that.”
The Bucks blew a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Thon Maker tied the game at 99 on his third basket of the quarter with 1:11 left and Middleton followed with a 3-pointer to make it 102-99 Bucks with 42.3 seconds left.
But with his team up by four, Maker fouled Tyler Ulis on a 3-point shot with 5.5 seconds left to give Phoenix life. Ulis made all three free throws and after Bledsoe made two for Milwaukee, Booker had just enough time to beat the horn.
“That’s a make-it-or-go-home shot,” Booker said. “I knew I had a chance. I tried to elevate. It felt like it’s just me and the hoop.”
DeAndre Liggins’ only basket of the game put the Bucks up 109-107 with 1:28 left in overtime and the Suns never scored again.
With Antetokounmpo out of the lineup, the Bucks leaned on Middleton from the start. He had 13 of Milwaukee’s first 26 points. He had 13 more in the third quarter, when Milwaukee’s lead reached 15 points.
“I was trying to be aggressive and a lot of shots were going in for me,” Middleton said. “We wanted to win for (Bledsoe) and we needed it for us in the worst way with Giannis out and Gary going down ... somehow we won, even with Booker’s shot at the end.”
NOTES: Phoenix C Tyson Chandler returned after missing three games (illness). He replaced Greg Monroe, who started the past two games after coming from the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 7 in the Eric Bledsoe deal. ... Bucks coach Jason Kidd said F Giannis Antetokounmpo’s knee issues could result in fewer minutes down the road. “It’s something that I had talked about, that his minutes have been a little high early on and we’ve got to look at our bench.” ... With Antetokounmpo out, Kidd started a small lineup with G Malcolm Brogdon joining Gary Payton II and Bledsoe. ... Suns interim coach Jay Triano on Bledsoe’s return to Phoenix: “Fans build this as something more than the players ever do. Players think of it as one of 82 (games) and it’s against a guy we used to play with and that’s OK.”