Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks Preview
The Phoenix Suns defended home court in Game 1 of the NBA Finals as they earned a convincing 118-105 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Chris Paul was the leading scorer in the game as he had 32 points with 9 assists, while DeAndre Ayton backed him up with an impressive 22-point, 19-rebound effort. The Bucks struggled to keep pace offensively, and they never quite found their footing in the contest. Frankly, they looked a bit lost defensively as well and will need to make major adjustments on that end of the floor. Now, they’ll hope to steal Game 2 in an effort to turn the tides in the series.
I’m currently in Wisconsin on vacation with family and saw first-hand the deflated Bucks’ fan base after Game 1. Bucks fans filed out of Deer Park in big numbers before the game even ended on Tuesday night. Phoenix fans, conversely, will be elated following their massive Game 1 win. However, Milwaukee has plenty of hope left to rely on in this series, and the Finals are far from over. Game 2 figures to be a barnburner as the Bucks look to level up the series and the Suns attempt to take a 2-0 lead.
For odds movement and full matchup history, visit the Phoenix Suns vs Milwaukee Bucks Matchup Page.
Time: 9:00 PM ET
Arena: Phoenix Suns Arena- Phoenix, AZ
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Bucks Starting 5
Milwaukee Bucks Analysis
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury was the big storyline heading into Game 1 after he hyperextended his knee in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Hawks. It’s unlikely Antetokounmpo would have played in this game had it not been an NBA Finals affair and that he was able to put in 35 minutes at a high level was remarkable, to say the least. After he thought he would be out for a year when he first suffered the knee injury, the Greek Freak finished Game 1 of the Finals with 20 points on 6-11 shooting, although he missed five free throws, including some key ones late in the game. Antetokounmpo also had 17 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, but Milwaukee will need even more from him moving forward despite his murky injury status.
Khris Middleton has been spectacular in these playoffs, particularly in the wake of Antetokounmpo’s hyperextended knee. There’s no question that this team would not be in the Finals without Middleton’s contributions. He scored 29 points on 12-26 shooting from the field and 5-12 from 3-point range in Game 1 to go with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Brook Lopez finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds but was largely exposed by Ayton in a matchup he was never destined to win. Jrue Holiday shot just 4-14 from the field while P.J. Tucker contributed a little offensively.
Pat Connaughton played 28 minutes as Lopez struggled to compete with Ayton, but he scored just 8 points and will need to do more offensively in Game 2. Connaughton is a solid defender and did a decent job against Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The Bucks are missing Donte DiVincenzo, though, who was ruled out for the remainder of the year during the regular season with a foot injury. Bryn Fores has stepped up at various points of this playoff run, and he hit 2 3-pointers in 12 minutes off the bench in Game 1.
Perhaps most problematic for the Bucks moving forward was their defense, as they allowed Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and DeAndre Ayton to get to their spots early and often in this game. Jrue Holiday was supposed to be the antidote to a dynamic Chris Paul, but he looked a shell of himself on defense. Milwaukee also made just 9 of 16 free throws, leaving 7 points on the floor that would have made a huge difference. Compared to a 96.2% clip for one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the NBA, that was the biggest difference between these two teams in Game 1.
Suns Starting 5
Chris Paul has been waiting for this moment, and he’s leaving his heart on the floor in every game now for this Suns team. He finished with 32 points on 12-19 shooting (4-7 from 3) with 9 assists to just 2 turnovers. Paul’s playmaking, shooting, and leadership are second-to-none. The future Hall of Famer is finally putting together the type of playoff run that will put him in the conversation as one of the very best players ever to man the point guard position. This impressive effort came on the heels of a dominant Game 6 against the Clippers which he finished with 41 points on 16-24 shooting (7-8 from 3) with 8 assists to 2 turnovers; these have been two of Paul’s best performances in his career in the two most meaningful games he’s ever played.
One of the most impressive parts of this Suns’ playoff run has been the contributions of first-time playoff players Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges. Booker scored 27 points on 8-21 shooting against Milwaukee to go with 6 assists and 3 steals. Ayton was a handful for the Bucks to deal with, and the former number one overall pick finished with 22 points on 8-10 shooting with 19 rebounds. Milwaukee had no answers for this electric young duo, and I don’t see that changing much moving forward. Booker also has the potential to do much better offensively as he made just 1 of his 8 3-point attempts. Jae Crowder was impressively the best +/- player in the game at +19 despite only scoring 1 point, while Mikal Bridges scored 14 points.
Cam Johnson and Cam Payne each chipped in with 10 points, and some high-effort energy plays off the bench. Dario Saric’s injury is something to watch moving forward as he left Game 1 early with a knee issue. DeAndre Ayton played 39 minutes in Game 1, so Saric’s absence wasn’t terribly significant as his biggest role is picking up the center minutes when Ayton sits. The Suns went small for the remainder of the minutes when Ayton was off the floor.
As I mentioned in the Bucks analysis, the free-throw shooting differential in this game wound up being the big separating factor. Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and DeAndre Ayton were a combined 20-20 from the free-throw line in this game, and Jae Crowder was the only player to miss one at the line. Additionally, the Suns scored 44 points in the paint compared to 42 for the Bucks and had 20 fast break points to 17 for Milwaukee. Phoenix hit just 32.4% of their 3-pointers, a clip that should drastically improve as they hit 37.8% of their 3-point shots in the regular season, the 7th-best mark in the NBA.
Suns vs. Bucks Betting Odds
The early odds for Game 2 of this series seem to be very similar to Game 1. The odds got to around -6 or -6.5 for the Suns pregame before closing at around -5 or -5.5 after Giannis Antetokounmpo was ruled active. When favored by at least 5.5 points, the Suns are 20-18-1 against the spread this season. Meanwhile, the Bucks are just 26-30 against the spread when they are at least a 5.5-point underdog. The over-under for Game 2 is set at around 220 points after there were 223 points scored in Game 1. 54.5% of Phoenix’s games have gone over the points total this season, while 53.3% of Milwaukee’s games have gone over. The over is likely the stronger bet if you are inclined to place a wager on the points total.
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