The Milwaukee Bucks are on a mission to steal a road win against the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 to even the NBA Finals at 1-1 before heading back home to Wisconsin over the weekend. Otherwise, the Bucks could fall into an 0-2 hole before they even play their first NBA Finals game on their home court in Milwaukee.
The Suns won Game 1 in a game they controlled from the opening tip. After striking first blood, the Suns are now just three more wins away from winning their first-ever NBA championship.
|Game 2: Milwaukee Bucks (0-1) vs. Phoenix Suns (1-0)
- Tip-off: 6 pm PT
- Location: Phoenix Suns Arena, AZ
- Point Spread: PHX -5
- Total: 220.5 o/u
- Money Line: MIL +170 / PHX -210
The Bucks are +5 underdogs heading into Game 2. The Suns easily covered the spread in Game 1 with a 13-point victory.
The Bucks don’t have any major injuries to report. Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo played in Game 1 after missing the previous two games with a knee injury. Meanwhile, the Suns saw their bench shrink after they lost backup forward Dario Saric to a blown ACL.
Bucks: Invisible Holiday, no love from the zebras
Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 29 points in the loss, while Antetokounmpo added 20 points and 17 rebounds with another double-double. However, the Bucks were unable to find a third scoring option against the Suns.
Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday thrived when Antetokounmpo went down with an injury, but they were non-factors on offense in Game 1. Holiday had a rough night on both ends of the court with a lackluster offensive showing (only 10 points), while getting his butt kicked on defense by both Paul and Devin Booker.
“Pick my spots to be aggressive, and sometimes it’s gotten me in trouble,” said Holiday. “I’ve got to be aggressive from the beginning of the game.”
The Bucks will need stellar performances from their main weapons in Game 2 if they expect to avoid an 0-2 hole. Even though Antetokounmpo played 36 minutes in Game 1, he wasn’t 100% while nursing his knee injury.
“Hopefully I can feel more comfortable, more confident to go downhill, to make more plays,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’ll see if I can be in a position that I can make more plays.”
The Bucks were also on the short end of home-cooking from the officials. The Suns shot 26 free throws and knocked down 25 of them. The Bucks went to the charity stripe only 16 times. Antetokounmpo accounted for 12 free throws, while the rest of the team combined for only four.
“We’ve got to be better defensively,” said head coach Mike Budenholzer. “We’ve got to keep them off the free-throw line and we got to be more aggressive attacking and getting to the free-throw line and getting to good offense.”
Suns: No letting up in Game 2
The Suns are tough to beat because Paul gets everyone involved in the offense. It’s not uncommon to see all five starters score double digits, even though the Suns have their own version of a Big 3 with Paul, Booker, and Deandre Ayton.
“We have a real team,” said Paul. “Like a team where you can’t just key on one guy or two guys.”
The equal distribution of the rock makes the Suns difficult to defend. They also have excellent floor spacers, so even if you blitz their pick-and-roll or attempt a double team, the Suns always seem to find an open player on the perimeter.
Paul picked apart the Bucks on defense, especially when they attempted to clog the lane and drop back on screens when Paul was the ball handler. The same thing happened to the Bucks at the onset of the Eastern Conference finals against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks. Young killed them until the Bucks decided to switch on screens instead of dropping back.
“We have to keep looking at the film and see how we can maybe take away some of the rhythm or make it where he’s not getting into his spots as easily,” Budenholzer said about slowing down Paul.
Meanwhile, Paul is the betting favorite to win the NBA Finals MVP after his 32-point performance in Game 1.
Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.