Giannis played, the Bucks shot well from three, and Milwaukee still lost by 13 points. It had to be a real disheartening outcome for the Bucks and their backers in Game 1, but Game 2 brings a new day and a chance to take home court advantage away before the series heads to Wisconsin.
Phoenix is once again the favorite, this time of 5.5 points after the late Antetokounmpo announcement wreaked havoc on the Game 1 line, which would up settling on 5 across most of the market after being as high as 7. The Suns have been a covering machine in the playoffs with an ATS record of 12-5. Pushing that number to 13 would mean good things for them and also mean a 2-0 lead.
More Giannis, Please?
How healthy is Giannis Antetokounmpo? Apparently Giannis was healthy enough to play nearly all of the fourth quarter with the Bucks trailing by 16 heading into the final period. It made no sense, as he played eight minutes in the first quarter and eight minutes in the second quarter, when the game was still hanging in the balance. Trailing by double digits, he played 11:36 in the fourth.
Maybe that’s a good sign for the Bucks, in that their star player was healthy enough and wanted to be on the floor with the big deficit, but it sure seems like it would have been in the team’s best interest to keep him sidelined.
Giannis only took 11 shots in more than 35 minutes. If he’s out there, he needs the ball. If he can’t be an effective scorer and will only be used in a decoy and/or rebounding capacity, then the Bucks are in serious trouble.
Somewhere in the Middleton
Khris Middleton needs to be better. Sure, he had 29 points on 12-of-26 shooting, but he had more turnovers than assists and had the highest usage rate on the team. He was 5-of-12 from three and the Bucks were 16-of-36 for 44.4%, one of their best performances of the postseason, but Middleton remains pretty inefficient for long stretches of games.
The Bucks tried to rely on Brook Lopez a lot, who had 17 points and five of the team’s nine offensive rebounds, but he was a defensively liability in the game. Most of the Bucks were. Giannis had five personal fouls, as you can see his limited mobility more on defense than on offense.
In his first NBA Finals game ever, Chris Paul did not disappoint. He had 32 points and nine assists to lead the Suns to the Game 1 victory. It wasn’t just Paul, though, as Devin Booker used a high-volume approach and the free throw line to score 27 points and Deandre Ayton remained an elite offensive weapon in the playoffs with 22 points. He also had 19 rebounds.
The Suns did have a big edge at the free throw line, including Booker’s 10-for-10 and Paul’s 6-for-6, which is part of the reason why bettors are trying to wager on Milwaukee in this one, but the Suns used that unselfish approach yet again to fill up the stat sheet.
Phoenix even shot just 32.4% from three, as those shots were not falling, primarily for Booker and Jae Crowder, who combined to go 1-of-13.
Game 2 Preview
Adjustments are always a key part of the equation in the playoffs. Sometimes a team that wins by margin will get a little bit of hubris and not change anything at all, while the opposition does something to improve. Playing cleaner defense would really help the Bucks, as they sent the Suns to the line for 26 free throw attempts to their 16. That had a lot to do with Phoenix’s aggressiveness in going to the basket and being in a position to get fouled.
Milwaukee needs to get more aggressive going to the rim themselves. Put pressure on the Phoenix defense. Stop settling for jump shots. Throw Phoenix’s game back at them.
The concern for the Bucks is that they had a good performance from deep, Booker was largely neutralized from the floor, Giannis was able to play, and they trailed by 16 going into the fourth quarter. A lot of things need to change for Milwaukee to even up the series.
NBA Finals Game 2 Free Pick
Why would Game 2 go any differently than Game 1 based on what we saw and what the box score has to say? The Suns may not get as many free throw looks, but we probably won’t see a 38.1% night from Devin Booker. The Bucks had no answer for Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul is playing some of the best basketball of his career.
Milwaukee won’t even be able to surprise the Suns and throw Giannis into the lineup at the last minute this time around. We also have to wonder about any hangover with the knee injury for Giannis after playing more than 35 minutes in Game 1.
It will be the Suns -5.5 in Game 2.