With the NBA Finals tied at 2-2, both teams are only two wins away from winning the championship. The Phoenix Suns blew a 2-0 lead, losing two consecutive games to the Milwaukee Bucks. The series returns to Phoenix for Game 5 where the Suns are looking to regain control of the NBA Finals against the Bucks.
The Bucks are riding high on a two-game winning streak, but enter Game 5 as a +3.5 underdog. The Suns won and covered both of their home games earlier in the series with victories in Games 1 and 2. The Suns are 8-2 at home this postseason at Phoenix Suns Arena. They also went 27-8 at home in the regular season for the fourth-best home-court advantage in the NBA.
The Bucks are 5-6 on the road in the playoffs, but if you toss out the sweep of the Miami Heat in the opening round, they’re 3-6 on the road in the last three series.
|Game 5: Milwaukee Bucks (2-2) vs. Phoenix Suns (2-2)|
- Tip-off: 6 pm PT
- Location: Phoenix Suns Arena, AZ
- Point Spread: PHX -3.5
- Total: 218 o/u
- Money Line: MIL +145 / PHX -165
- Series Line: MIL +125 / PHX -145
In both of their wins, the Suns averaged 118 ppg while, in both of their losses, they averaged just 101.5 ppg. On the flip side, when the Bucks score more than 109 points, they’re 2-0 in the NBA Finals. When they’re held to 108 or fewer points, they’re 0-2.
Sweet home, Phoenix
The Suns will continue to build their Giannis Wall of defense in Game 5 in order to slow down the downhill motion of Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo. At the same time, they’ll have to do a better job on Khris Middleton, who torched them for 40 in Game 4.
“At this point, both teams know each other,” said Chris Paul. “You know the sets. They can call out our plays, we can call out theirs. It’s about execution. Down the stretch, we’ve got to box out. I’ve got to box out. We’ve got to execute. We’re a team that’s closed out games like that all season long.”
With the Suns back home in Phoenix, they hope the officials will no longer favor the Bucks, who outshot the Suns at the free-throw line 54 to 35. In Game 3, the Bucks went to the free-throw line 26 times with Antetokounmpo shooting 17 free throws versus 16 total for the Suns. In Game 4, the discrepancy continued with the Suns outshooting the Bucks 29 to 19 at the charity stripe.
Turnovers doomed the Suns in Game 4. They coughed up the ball 17 times compared to just five turnovers by the Bucks.
“The turnovers just crushed us tonight,” said head coach Monty Williams. “They got 19 more shots up than we did.”
Even the calm and steady Paul had the yips. He committed a couple of crucial errors in the fourth quarter in possessions in which the Suns needed a bucket, but instead, turned the ball over.
Bucks: Hitting 3s and slowing down CP3
After Paul destroyed the Bucks in pick-and-rolls in the first two games, they did a much better job of minimizing his impact. Mike Budenholzer tapped Jeff Teague to come off the bench to guard Paul for long stretches of time in Game 4. Teague and Jrue Holiday tag-teamed Paul the entire game.
“That’s really kind of the point of us doing it, to be able to not give Chris just some easy baskets, an easy view of the game,” said Holiday, the Bucks defensive specialist. “We know that he can control the game and just kind of put in the palm of his hand. But to have his back turned most of the game, always thinking that me and Teague are going to be there, it can be frustrating. And then doing it 94 feet for 48 minutes, it can be a bit tiring.”
With Antetokounmpo not expected to get the calls in this road game, the Bucks have to do a better job shooting 3-pointers. They were able to get away with shooting 7-for-29 in Game 4 because the Suns also struggled with a 7-for-23 clip. In Game 3, the Bucks knocked down 14 treys — five more than the Suns — which propelled them to a 20-point blowout victory.
Overall, the Bucks are shooting 34.8% from beyond the arc in the NBA Finals, but they’ll have to bring out their snipers in Game 5 if they expect to keep pace with the Suns.
Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.