The NBA Finals is ready to tip-off, but it’s still unknown if one of the league’s top stars will even suit up. Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo is questionable for the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns are the consensus betting favorite to win the 2021 NBA championship due to Antetokounmpo’s hyperextended knee injury. Even if he plays, how effective will he be?
|Game 1: Milwaukee Bucks (46-26) vs. Phoenix Suns (51-21, 12-4)|
- Tip-off: 6 pm PT
- Location: Phoenix Suns Arena, AZ
- Point Spread: -6
- Total: 219.5 o/u
- Money Line: MIL +195 / PHX +220
Oddsmakers pegged the Bucks at +6 underdogs, and that’s under the assumption they play Game 1 without Antetokounmpo, who injured his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals and missed the last two games in that series. The Bucks upgraded him from doubtful to questionable after the morning shoot-around, but he’s still a game-time decision.
Are Bucks dunzo without Greek Freak?
The Bucks went 6-5 in the regular season when they didn’t have Antetokounmpo in the lineup. They went 1-1 in the playoffs without him.
The Bucks backcourt — Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday — is crucial in this series and will have a tough defensive assignment slowing down Devin Booker and Chris Paul. The two stepped up in the last two games without Antetokounmpo. Holiday, the premier two-way player in the league, stepped up across the board with 26 points, 11 assists, 7.5 rebounds per game. Middleton is the go-to guy in crunch time and averaged 29 ppg.
“Khris puts all the weight on his shoulders and doesn’t care,” Holiday said about his teammate.
“He’s a bucket-getter,” said head coach Mike Budenholzer. “He’s just got such a great overall package and an underrated playmaker. It’s all built off him just being a great, great shooter. Any time he can shoot, he’s got the ultimate green light.”
Antetokounmpo leads the NBA this postseason with 12.7 rebounds per game and 13 double-doubles. That’s what will be hard to replicate over the duration of a series. The Bucks added veteran Bobby Portis to add toughness to the team, and he did a stellar job filling in for Antetokounmpo in the last two games of the Atlanta series.
Brook Lopez stepped up in the scoring department, putting up 33 points in Game 5. The Bobby and Brook show combined for 100 points and 30 rebounds in the last two games.
CP3 four wins away from a title
Like a shark that smells blood in the water, Chris Paul knows he’s within striking distance of fulfilling a childhood dream by winning the NBA championship. Since joining the NBA 16 seasons ago, Paul played for some spectacular teams, yet an NBA title eluded him due to disappointing knockouts and unfortunate injuries. The Suns are four wins away from securing the franchise its first NBA championship, and they caught a break by playing against a short-handed Bucks team.
The Suns had an easier path to the NBA Finals than the Bucks did because their opponents lost key players to injuries. But it still wasn’t exactly a cakewalk to the playoffs. They had to defeat LeBron James, MVP Nikola Jokic, and Paul “Playoff P” George to reach the NBA Finals.
Paul also had a tumultuous postseason. He injured his shoulder in the opening game of the playoffs against the LA Lakers and played most of the first round with one arm. Before the Western Conference finals began, Paul tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the start of that series before finally rejoining the team.
Paul averages 18.1 ppg and 8.7 assists per game and he leads a well-balanced starting five that includes Devin Booker (27 ppg), Deandre Ayton (16.2 ppg, 11.8 rebounds), Mihkal Bridges (10.8 ppg), and Jae Crowder (10.7 ppg).
If Booker wins the NBA championship, he’ll no longer just be known as Kendall Jenner’s boyfriend. He’s one of the co-favorites to win MVP Finals MVP at +200 odds.
Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA playoffs.