The Milwaukee Bucks won or tied three of the four quarters in Game 2. The problem is that they lost the other one by 14 points.
Milwaukee heads home trailing 2-0 in the series against the Phoenix Suns. Game 3 is on Sunday night in The Good Land and basically amounts to a must-win game for the host team. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit in the NBA and only three teams have evened up the series.
They say it isn’t a must-win until you are up against elimination, but history says that is not the case in the Association. The Bucks better figure it out in a hurry, as they are four-point favorites for Game 3 with a total of 220.
Giannis Gives His All
The Bucks lost Game 2, but Giannis Antetokounmpo had the kind of performance that would ease just about all fears about his health. Giannis had 42 points and 12 rebounds in just over 40 minutes of game action on Thursday night. It wasn’t enough to come away with the win, but it sure seems to have been enough to alter the betting odds.
Giannis, who suffered a pretty ugly hyperextension of his knee in the last round against the Atlanta Hawks, has 62 points and 29 rebounds in the first two games of this series. He has also played nearly 75 and a half minutes to help the cause. Unfortunately for him, his teammates have not come along for the ride. At all.
A Disappointing Khris-mas Holiday
Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were awful in Game 2. Holiday was pretty bad in Game 1 and Middleton was streaky as could be. Collectively, the two guys are 28-for-77 from the floor in the series. While the two have combined for 29 assists, they’re also shooting 36.4% as a tandem.
To put this into perspective, Pat Connaughton was the only Bucks player to make more than one three-pointer in Game 2. Distance shooting has been an issue throughout the postseason for Milwaukee, as their 29% showing on Thursday night dropped their postseason success rate to 31.7% from beyond the arc.
Holiday and Middleton have a lot to do with those low numbers. Middleton is under 34% for the postseason and Holiday is below 29%.
The Bucks have to hope the cozy setting and familiar sightlines of Fiserv Forum can change the mojo.
Everybody’s Catching Some Rays
The Suns are sharing the basketball beautifully in this series and have done so throughout the playoffs. Phoenix is third among playoff teams in assists per game with 24.2. Only the 76ers and Nuggets, who both made more shots per game, were higher at 24.9.
That unselfish style of basketball has been on display in this series. All five starters were in double figures in Game 2, led by Devin Booker with 31 points, all on field goal attempts. He had zero points and zero attempts at the free throw line in Thursday’s game. Chris Paul led six Suns in double figures in Game 1 with his 32 points. Cameron Johnson and Cameron Payne had 10 each off the bench.
The Suns have 44 assists in this series on 84 made shots from the field. They shot 50% from three in Game 2 by getting a lot of clean looks from sharing the basketball.
On a night when Deandre Ayton was just 4-of-10, Mikal Bridges had 27 points. Somebody else steps up every game for the Suns and that is why they are up 2-0 and were the Western Conference Champions.
Game 3 Preview – Suns vs. Bucks
Looking at what has happened already in the series, the Bucks are in serious trouble. They cannot defend everybody and they have made that painfully clear. Giannis Antetokounmpo is having a big series and the Bucks have still lost twice by double digits and have trailed by double digits going into the fourth quarter in both games.
Many pointed to the free throw disparity in Game 1 as the reason why the Suns won in such comfortable fashion. Without one in Game 2, they won in comfortable fashion.
The Suns have had their share of injury luck in these playoffs and have mostly stayed healthy themselves, but the more you watch the Bucks, the more you wonder if they would have been out in the second round with a healthy Nets team. They almost lost anyway.
NBA Free Pick & Best Bet – Suns vs. Bucks Game 3
The venue has changed. Giannis looks healthy. The -4 for the Bucks probably makes sense in light of those two things, but based on how this series has gone and the body of work for the two teams in the playoffs, it seems like a rather optimistic line for this game.