Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks Preview
This NBA Finals is still very much in reach for the Milwaukee Bucks, despite what seems like an overwhelming dominance from the Phoenix Suns. This is almost entirely because of former two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Despite what looked like a season-ending injury when Giannis hyperextended his knee last round, he has come back stronger and better than ever.
In Game 3, the Bucks seemed much more like a cohesive unit than the first two games of the series, as they secured a comfortable win at home by a score of 120-100. There was not one single Phoenix Suns player that scored more than 20 points in Game 3. The highest scorer for the Suns was Chris Paul with 19 points. Meanwhile, Devin Booker was held to a marginal 10 points, six rebounds, and two assists.
During a season and post-season, defined so heavily by injuries, both teams have managed to stay relatively healthy. Chris Paul had an early playoff scare, and Giannis hyperextended his knee merely two weeks ago. Besides that, these teams have found a way to get through it all. For Game 4, Khris Middleton will have to step up and have a huge game combined with another incredible turnout from Giannis if the Bucks want a chance to tie up the series at 2-2.
For odds movement and full matchup history, visit the Phoenix Suns vs Milwaukee Bucks Matchup Page.
Time: 9:00 PM ET
Arena: Fiserv Forum – Milwaukee, WI
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Bucks Starting 5
Milwaukee Bucks Analysis
Milwaukee has itself a real warrior with Giannis. After coming off an injury that would usually be proceeded with much more caution, Giannis has put up back-to-back 40 point games in equally heroic efforts despite one game being a win and the other being a loss. Giannis and Shaq are the only two players in NBA Finals history to have back-to-back 40 point and ten rebound games. During Giannis’s absurd Game 3, 28 of his points were scored within five feet, while the rest were at the free-throw line. This bodes well for my theory that to maximize his game in the Finals, they need to get him the ball within 15-18 feet to score instead of on the perimeter. Hopefully, for the Bucks, they have found some sort of offensive identity now, as surely they feel like they are back in this series.
Not everything is fine and dandy for Milwaukee, though. Khris Middleton has played pretty poorly the last two games. In neither of those games has he eclipsed 20 points; he’s had 11 points and 18 points. Those two games combined equal his scoring total for Game 1, which was a much better game for him. Unsurprisingly, Game 1 was by far Giannis’s least productive game as he only logged 20 points.
The Bucks need to find out a way to get Middleton and Giannis both hot at the same time. Unless this happens, I can see Milwaukee struggling through the rest of this series. As I reminisce through previous NBA Finals, I think about the Cleveland Cavaliers when they won a title in 2016. LeBron averaged just shy of 30 points per game, while Kyrie barely trailed with over 27 points per game. The only way for Milwaukee to pull this off is if those two can play consistently together the rest of the series.
Suns Starting 5
The Phoenix Suns have proven themselves to be one of the most elite teams in the NBA this year behind the head coach, Monty Williams, and future Hall-of-Famer, Chris Paul. Chris has had a fantastic start to the NBA Finals thus far. However, he has recently run into a bit of trouble with turnovers when Jrue Holiday is his primary defender in the past two games. Paul has had ten turnovers in his past two games with Jrue as his primary defender. However, in Paul’s previous five games before that, he only had ten turnovers total.
Phoenix struggled mightily in Game 3, with Devin Booker only scoring ten points on 3-for-14 from the field. The entire game, the Suns seemed to lack the rhythm, chemistry, and poise that made them look so dominant throughout the playoffs and the first two games of the NBA Finals. With all that being said, Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder continue to bug Khris Middleton these past two games, and if that continues, then it may not matter how much Giannis dominates.
I see Game 3 as more of an outlier than anything for the Phoenix Suns. However, that does not necessarily mean that they will show up and dominate the Bucks in Game 4. They need to show up and play how they played the first two games at home to have a chance of knocking off the Bucks at home.
Suns vs. Bucks Betting Odds
In its last six games against Milwaukee, Phoenix is 5-1 against the spread. Constantly, the Suns seem to have the Bucks’ number. With the resurgence of Giannis and the Bucks in Game 3, this will inevitably be a battle. However, if Milwaukee goes down 3-1 and has to play two of the following three games in Phoenix, their season is essentially over. The Bucks are well aware of this, so much like in Game 3, this is a “do or die” game.
Luckily for Milwaukee, the Bucks are 8-1 at home during the playoffs this year and seem to have a strong rhythm when playing in front of their home crowd. Interestingly enough, despite their evident success at home, the Bucks are still only shooting a mere 30.1% from behind the arc. This is crucial because if they can figure out their outside shooting woes at home, you would have to imagine that they would be virtually unstoppable there.
I believe that Milwaukee will win Game 4. However, I’m unsure of the margin the Bucks will win by. There certainly won’t be another 20-point win for the Bucks throughout the NBA Finals. Giannis is comfortable at home, securing averages of 31.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, and five assists per game at home in the playoffs. He may need to adapt in Game 4 to more of a distributing role if the Suns double-team him every time he’s in the paint, but the Bucks should still be fine here. I’m expecting Middleton, Holiday, and the rest of the Bucks to supply a bit more help than what they have previously given in this series. This game should go down to the wire, and I can see this being close until the final buzzer. For that reason, it may make sense to bet the Bucks’ Moneyline here as I could easily see Phoenix covering the spread as an underdog around +4. If the spread widens anymore, consider taking Phoenix, but I think it is well placed around +4.
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