The Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns play Game 1 in the NBA Finals from Phoenix Suns Arena (real original name) tomorrow, July 6, at 8:00 PM (Central Time) and will be nationally televised on ABC.
The Bucks are making their first Finals appearance since 1974 and looking for their second all-time championship (1971). The Suns are making their first Finals appearance since 1993 and looking for their first championship in franchise history.
As I write this, the Phoenix Suns are 6-point favorites, per Bovada.
I think the spread is that high because of the uncertainty of the two-time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Although, I’ve been hearing from “sources” (did I do that right?) that the Greek Freak is on track to play in Game 1. Milwaukee is also traditionally bad in Game 1’s under Mike Budenholzer (3-5).
In a related but off topic side note, the good news is Greece didn’t qualify for the olympics, so Giannis will have plenty of time to rest for the 2021-22 season.
With or without Giannis, for me the two x-factors are: 1) Brook Lopez – if he’s able to be effective in defending pick & rolls, the Bucks have a good chance to win. 2) Bryn Forbes – his last two games against Phoenix he averaged 20.5 points, shooting 13-for-19 from 3-point range. Forbes needs to be at least adequate from 3-point range in this series.
Having said that, obviously the Bucks need Jrue Holiday and a consistent Khris Middleton to show up during the Finals.
Defensively, I think Mike Budenholzer will start with the drop coverage (which I’m not a huge fan of) in Game 1 with Brook playing up higher (to take away midrange from Chris Paul & Devin Booker) and perimeter defenders over helping to take away lobs and side contest midrange. However, it will take numerous coverages to win this series and I think switching 1 through 5 will be important at some point.
Chris Paul notoriously picks apart the drop defense, so in-game adjustments (not exactly Bud’s strong suit) and switching up coverages will be key in this series. The Bucks can’t allow Chris Paul to feel comfortable.
I think Jrue Holiday will be the primary defender on Chris Paul and PJ Tucker will be the primary defender on Devin Booker when both players are on the floor for the Suns.
I’m sure the Suns defensively will try to hide Paul or Booker on the weakest Bucks offensive player, for the starting five it would be PJ Tucker. If that’s the case, then the Bucks need to involve Tucker in screens to force switches, if they choose to not do that and/or it doesn’t work, then Tucker needs to keep busting his tail on the offensive boards.
I imagine the Suns will pack the paint defensively. So if the Bucks continue to miss their 3’s at a similar alarming rate in this series, they will need to continue winning in other areas (second chance points, free throws, transition points, turnovers, etc.) to make up for it.
If Giannis plays in Game 1 tomorrow, I’d lower his minutes to make sure he’s effective and play Lopez more at the 5. Lopez vs the Suns could be very effective given the options for the Suns behind Deandre Ayton are Dario Saric and my boy Frank Kaminsky.
People are complaining about a potential boring Finals? Yeah, I hope it is boring, I hope the Bucks sweep the Suns and win by 40 each game!