We have an epic series ahead of us as the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns clash in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.
No Giannis No Problem
Bucks against Suns will be a good series even if Giannis is out because of how well the Bucks can defend as a unit, how they can shoot the ball and most importantly, Middleton and Holiday can go shot for shot with Booker.
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer gets a lot of criticism but his team actually has a good system even outside of Giannis. This was displayed in that Game 4 against the Heat at the Bubble last year too when Khris Middleton went off. The Bucks moved the ball well and play hard on both ends.
Middleton is not explosive or lightning quick, but his timing and patience is elite. He is so skilled and a good 1-on-1 player. A three-level scorer. This is the closest the Bucks have been to the NBA Championship in the Giannis era.
Again, they have a great group of role players, the additions of Holiday and Tucker plus experience in the moment and getting some breaks with Nets and Hawks injuries. Overall, they’re a real squad. Replacing Giannis with Bobby Portis gave the Bucks the spacing that Brook Lopez typically provided, so he could operate more inside.
Chris Paul Should Have Been the NBA MVP!
Yes, individually, CP3 averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 31.4 minutes over 70 games and Nikola Jokic’s 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 34.6 minutes over 72 games for a Nuggets team without star point guard Jamal Murray (plus-2.7 Offensive Box Plus/Minus) are clearly better but former Rockets assistant coach Irv Roland explained it well.
“The award says valuable, not outstanding,” Roland told Bally Sports National’s Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson by phone. “Measuring individual value, this player’s addition took a non-playoff team to the best record in the NBA, I don’t see what the debate is.”
“He’s always been successful, just like me,” NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens told Robinson via text message.
“Every stop that he’s been, he’s made a difference and production has been equally as good. Say what you want about him, you can’t deny his body of work. Definitely a Hall of Famer, I might add!”
In today’s NBA, many of Chris Paul’s peers have won championships after joining super teams but he’s become Master Yoda to teams full of Luke Skywalker’s like the Thunder and Suns. CP3’s Basketball IQ was on full display last season when he led a 44-28 Thunder team to the playoffs and one game away from eliminating the Rockets in the first round in the bubble.
“The last two seasons have been MVP worthy for him after they said he was done,” two-time NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas told Robinson.
On the court, Paul helped transform a Suns team that finished 10th in the Western Conference with a 34-39 record last season to one that eliminated the defending champion Lakers in the first round and then the Nuggets and Clippers. CP3 helped the Suns make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, ending an 11-year drought.
“He was a piece that was needed for those young guys,” former Suns point guard Stephon Marbury told Robinson by phone from China.
The Suns haven’t displayed any weakness. They’re a deep, versatile team. Deandre Ayton has elevated his play, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson are two-way threats, Cameron Payne turned around his career admirably and is now one of the best reserve players in the league, Jae Crowder sparks the entire team and is a great veteran leader and head coach Monty Williams has a unique connection with his players and is one of the smartest at his position. And last but certainly not least is Devin Booker, who is proving to be a superstar.
Team to Win (Regular Time)
• Milwaukee Bucks: 3.00
• Phoenix Suns: 1.43
• Milwaukee Bucks: +5.5 (1.96)
• Phoenix Suns: -5.5 (1.85)
• Over 216.5 (1.88)
• Under 216.5 (1.93)
Key Points to Consider
Jrue Holiday (plus-1.3 Offensive Box Plus/Minus in the playoffs) got the Bucks over that hump. Jrue’s ability to cook in the half court, play under control and with smarts + defend your best guards and force the defense to play off Khris Middleton and Giannis changed this entire Bucks team. Middleton is a pure scorer. If he sees a few go in, the basket becomes an ocean. These are the scariest players because they can single-handedly change a game. He’s done that many times in every playoff series.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo (plus-5.3 Offensive Box Plus/Minus in the playoffs) possibly out, the Bucks need Holiday and Middleton to carry them and help them keep with the Suns and another key player will be Brook Lopez, he has to produce at both ends of the floor, trying to contain Deandre Ayton on defense and providing some offense. The Suns have to replicate what they’ve done all season long and they have the better head coach, by far but the Bucks have played together more time and they’re also hungry. Game 1 will be a war and while I like the Suns to win, it should be close.
The Bucks are 5-1 ATS in their last six games when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game, 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall, 4-1 ATS in their last five games against a team with a winning straight up record and 5-2 ATS in their last seven games after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game.
For the Bucks, Khris Middleton is expected to score 22.5 points with 6.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists, making 7.7 field goals in 17.5 attempts.
For the Suns, Devin Booker is projected to finish with 25.7 points, 6.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds, making 8.2 field goals in 18.6 attempts.
Three-star (out of four) AccuScore hot trend pick on the Bucks in this one. Average score in simulations is Phoenix Suns 110.1 to Milwaukee Bucks 109.2.