Adjustments are a critical part of each and every series. It doesn’t matter the sport. Coaches are tasked with figuring out what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve upon the things that didn’t work, while still trying to optimize what did. It may seem like 48ish hours between games is a lot, but you can bet that Monte Williams and Mike Budenholzer were happy to have an extra day in between Game 3 and Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
The Bucks got back in the series with Sunday’s 120-100 win and Milwaukee is favored once again in Game 4, this time with a shot to even up the series. The line is -4.5 and the total is 220.5 as the Phoenix Suns look to not only be better offensively and defensively, but also hope for Milwaukee’s offense to regress back to its playoff levels.
“Happy Learned to Putt!”
The Bucks entered the postseason with the most points per game in the NBA regular season. They rank just ninth in that department in the playoffs. What has happened is that the Bucks simply have not made enough shots. By and large, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton have been subpar in the playoffs.
Sure, the loss of Giannis Antetokounmpo was not helpful in the series against the Atlanta Hawks, but the Bucks have missed way too many jump shots and free throws in the postseason.
Well, as a team now shooting 46% from the floor for the postseason and 32.1% from three, the Game 3 effort with 47.8% from the field and, more importantly, 38.9% from deep could not have come at a better time.
Giannis did his thing with 41 points, including 13 from the free throw line on 17 attempts, but Middleton and Holiday combined to go 14-of-28 from the floor and 8-of-17 from three with 39 combined points. That couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bucks.
Extra! Extra! Read All About Extra Possessions
Another reason why the Bucks were able to pull away in the second and third quarters of Game 3 was because of extra possessions. Milwaukee had 13 offensive rebounds to six for the Suns. The Bucks also had just nine turnovers to 14 for the Suns. Those extra possessions not only lead to more offense, but also keep the ball away from the opposition.
Entering Game 3, the Bucks had 22 turnovers and the Suns had 21. Now Milwaukee has a series edge. Milwaukee already had an edge in offensive rebounds, but those were more important on Sunday with free throw attempts and second-chance points. Phoenix has to learn to live with the OReb disadvantage, as the Suns trail 40-23 in the series.
No Reason To Panic
The Suns had a rough second quarter and the Bucks had an out-of-body experience for 24 minutes over the second and third quarters in Game 3. It was bound to happen at some point. The Suns were rattled throughout the game. Their 29% performance from three was an outlier and they were also just 69% on a not nice shooting night at the free throw line.
Monte Williams used his post-game to talk about the free throw disparity, you know, the one like what the Suns used to their advantage in Game 1. It was an excuse. A heat of the moment excuse. As he looked back through the film, it’s safe to say he knows his team didn’t play well.
Don’t Judge a Booker By Its Cover
Devin Booker was 3-of-14 in Game 3 and just 1-of-7 from the three-point line. He has struggled in the sport’s biggest spotlight in this series. Thirteen of his 68 points are from free throws, as he is only 23-of-60 from the floor and just 9-of-27 from three. Getting Booker going is the most important thing the Suns can do in Game 4.
The best way to do that is to try and establish everybody else early to get Booker some more looks late. Booker missed nine of his 11 shots in the first half of Game 3. He only took three shots and played less than 10 minutes the rest of the way. Williams and Chris Paul need to figure out how to get their scoring star going. Let Ayton eat on the inside early. Use Paul and Bridges in the midrange. When the Bucks start worrying about others, then use Booker.
Game 4 Preview – Suns vs. Bucks
The Suns were a resilient bunch during the regular season, covering in 15 of their 21 games immediately following a loss. The Suns had one three-game losing streak during the regular season and only lost two in a row four times. They did it in the series against the Lakers as well, a series that they obviously won.
Milwaukee cannot take Game 3 for granted. The Bucks shot well and had those extra possessions. Giannis got help from Middleton and Holiday. Getting complacent as a result will send this series back to Phoenix at 3-1. Continuing to push forward, trying to be better, will be the key. Milwaukee got a 13-of-17 performance at the line from Giannis, which is the opposite of what we’ve seen throughout the playoffs.
Game 4 Suns vs. Bucks Free Pick
The side seems like the tougher of the two bet types here. There are a bevy of player props out there you can look at and I’d expect some more usage for somebody like Mikal Bridges, but the under 220.5 is the play here. The Bucks shot better than they have in most games this postseason. While the Suns shot worse, the pace was a little bit quicker and Phoenix was uncharacteristically irresponsible with the basketball.