After all the hype and attention leading up to game 1 surrounding the availability of Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, all NBA fans were happy to see that he was playing. Knowing this, we can assume that Milwaukee now has their normal defense that has been dominant throughout the entire postseason. Limiting star players with the exception of Kevin Durant, it seemed that Phoenix was going to have a tough time dealing with them. It turned out quite the opposite, with the Suns getting virtually every shot they wanted.
When you score 57 points in an NBA half in today’s game, a win isn’t fully guaranteed. In game 1 tho, there was a feeling inside that most NBA fans had. It was that the Suns were going to pull away with this game no matter what. The fans were engaged, the team was playing with great rhythm, and most importantly, they had an answer for everything the Bucks did. That being said, where exactly did the Bucks go wrong?
Let’s first take a look at the bigger players/stars that are featured in this Finals. Chris Paul, D-Book, Giannis, Middleton, and we can count Jrue Holiday. We already know what they are going to bring to the table. At least 20 points, and for players like Paul and Holiday, a good amount of assists. You can’t stop greatness, or an athlete’s skill. But you can challenge or limit it. The Bucks let CP3 get into his mid-range easily, they let him distribute the ball to open teammates. At no point in the game were there any visible adjustments on Paul or Booker. I believe that the Bucks can limit the dominance of Phoenix’s duo. Let’s take the last series for example. Trae Young was having his way early on from his floater, to shimmying on open 3’s. Coach Budenholzer did a great job on making sure Holiday presses up on him, forcing a lot of low percentage shots, shutting the entire Hawks offense down. Being the veteran Chris Paul is, he may find a way to maneuver around this adjustment, but it gives Monty Williams another aspect to think on.
Not only were the stars for Phoenix able to get what they wanted, but also players like DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cam Johnson. I’m not sure where to start with Ayton’s dominance. The pick and roll worked way too well for the Suns, resulting with an easy Ayton layup or dunk almost every time. Milwaukee found no way to defend the P&R, and the majority of that fell on Brook Lopez. Lopez is known for his versatility and ability to stretch the floor. He was able to showcase that on the offensive end, but it was a completely different story on D. Whether it was the lack of communication, or the fact that Ayton was too quick, Lopez needs to do a better job defending. I say that because Milwaukee has no backup plan for this. For the period of time where P.J. Tucker was guarding Ayton in the paint, it was just even more chaos. If Ayton puts up a statline anywhere near game 1 (22 pts 19 reb), consider it a Phoenix win.
With a talented team like Milwaukee, it shouldn’t be a huge switch with their gameplan to find success in game 2. Have Lopez defend behind the pick and roll, force CP3 into the off-balance shots we saw him take against the Clippers, and most importantly, contain the paint. Very much easier said than done, but with Jrue Holiday, Giannis, and Khris Middleton with your group, it can be possible.
Top Photo: FanSided (Behind the Buck Pass)