Eric Bledsoe has played a key role in their surprising start, and the Phoenix Suns haven't fared nearly as well without him.
They won't have the high-scoring guard Saturday night but might not need him to take care of the league-worst Milwaukee Bucks, who have yet to beat a team with a winning record.
After being bothered by a sprained right knee in Monday's 107-88 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, Bledsoe was a late scratch for a 99-91 home loss to Memphis on Thursday. Bledsoe, the team's second-leading scorer with 18.0 points per game, shot 3 for 10 on Monday while finishing with a season-low seven points for the second time in three games.
Though he lobbied to play against the Grizzlies, coach Jeff Hornacek said there was some swelling in the knee and the decision was made to hold him out. The Suns then announced Saturday that Bledsoe would miss at least another week before being re-evaluated.
While the Suns are 16-8 with Bledsoe, they've dropped four of seven without him. Counting those games, Phoenix is 5-9 when not getting more than 15 points from Bledsoe.
The fourth-year pro has averaged 21.3 points on 54.9 percent shooting in his last six home games.
"I don't think it should matter," Hornacek said. "It gives other guys an opportunity."
If Bledsoe can't go, Gerald Green will likely get another start after finishing with nine points while missing 6 of 7 from 3-point range Thursday. Green, who hit 25 3s in the final six games of December as Phoenix went 5-1, averaged 17.0 points when Bledsoe missed six games in November due to a bruised shin.
Goran Dragic stepped up to score a career-high 33 points against the Grizzlies - he's averaging 26.7 in the last three games - but the Suns (19-12) shot 41.1 percent overall and 8 of 30 from 3-point range. They averaged 112.0 points, 47.6 percent field-shooting and 43.0 percent on 3s while winning seven of their previous nine at home.
Milwaukee (7-25) had lost 24 in a row at Phoenix before a 98-94 victory Jan. 17 to complete a season sweep. However, that Suns team would finish with the Western Conference's worst record, and the Bucks have no wins this season against teams currently above .500.
Larry Sanders finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds in that last meeting with Phoenix, and he's coming off his highest-scoring effort in four games since missing 25 with a right thumb injury. He made all seven shots for a season-high 16 points with eight rebounds and two blocks in a 96-87 loss at Utah on Thursday.
"I'm getting more comfortable out there," Sanders said. "I need a little better timing defensively. I feel like I didn't guard the rim as well as I should have."
Milwaukee matched its best road field-goal percentage of the season at 47.4 but missed 18 of 22 from 3-point range. The Bucks have made 24.2 percent from beyond the arc in their last four games.
Former leading scorer O.J. Mayo, now coming off the bench, has missed all six of his 3-point attempts while totaling four points in 27 minutes over the last two games.
Brandon Knight, averaging a team-high 14.7 points, scored eight on 3-of-12 shooting Thursday after a career-high 37-point effort in a 94-79 win over the Los Angeles Lakers to open a three-game trip.
The Bucks have had trouble defending the perimeter, ranking near the bottom of the league with a 42.6 defensive 3-point percentage since Dec. 14.
Phoenix's Channing Frye has made eight of 17 from beyond the arc in his last two games.
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Eric Bledsoe