Two teams that have had a good run of injury luck meet in the NBA Finals, which begin on Tuesday July 6. The difference is that one team enters this series healthy and the other one does not.
The Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks will square off in Game 1 as the Larry O’Brien Trophy gets polished up to be given to the winner of this series. The Suns are the home team with home court advantage in this series and they are -6 points to start the series with a 1-0 lead. The total is 217.
Injury Luck Be A Lady
Both of these teams have benefited from opponents’ injuries in the playoffs, but it does look like the Suns have the upper hand in that department here. Giannis Antetokounmpo did not play the last two games of the series against the Atlanta Hawks and is listed as questionable for Game 1. Doubtful is probably a fairer designation. Out could be the most accurate one.
The Suns dealt with an injury to Chris Paul in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers. That paled in comparison to what the Lakers dealt with, as LeBron James was well below 100% and Anthony Davis missed some time in the series. In the second round, the Suns benefited from Denver’s loss of Jamal Murray, though that was something that did happen a long time ago. In the third round, Kawhi Leonard was absent for the Clippers.
The injury gods had shined down on Milwaukee a lot prior to the Giannis injury. Trae Young was hurt and returned for Game 6 at less than 100% against the Hawks. The Brooklyn Nets lost both Kyrie Irving and James Harden during the series against the Bucks.
Now, though, the Bucks have gotten some bad news of their own. The rested and healthy Suns should have a big edge in this series for as long as Giannis is out.
Putting the “Off” in Offense
The Bucks have not performed well offensively throughout the playoffs and the task at hand won’t be any easier without Giannis. The Bucks have actually scored more points per game than the Suns, but are shooting just 46% from the field overall and 31.1% on three-point shots. Milwaukee has also been one of the worst free throw shooting teams throughout the tournament, though Giannis was a big culprit there.
The Bucks have really not had much success with distance shooting in any round of the playoffs. They have, however, taken over six more shots per game on average than the Suns, not because of fewer turnovers, but simply because of playing a faster-paced game.
The Suns are shooting 47.8% from the field, but distance shooting could be a huge key in this series. Phoenix is shooting over 37% on threes.
A Defensive Struggle?
The Suns and Bucks are #1 and #2 in scoring defense in the playoffs. Opponents have only shot 43% from the floor against Phoenix and just 32.6% on threes. The Bucks have held the opposition to 44.2% from the floor and 34.4% on threes.
Keep in mind that Milwaukee has faced some lackluster offenses in the playoffs with the injuries to the Nets and the Hawks, though Atlanta wasn’t that efficient of an offensive team to begin with.
NBA Picks Game 1 – Bucks vs. Suns
The Suns are being asked to cover a big number in this spot with a game that could be a much more defensive-oriented struggle, so this is a bit of a tough handicap. The Suns have really played good team basketball throughout the playoffs and that could yield a strong advantage in Game 1 and also throughout the series, so they’ll be the pick to cover and draw first blood.