The Phoenix Suns got their first NBA Finals off to a winning start against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
It was a comprehensive 118-105 victory for the home team, which has been installed as favorites to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The online sportsbook has the Suns at -220, so there is market confidence. Can Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks rebound? It will take a big effort in front of a roaring Phoenix crowd.
History Made in Phoenix
Tuesday’s win was the first NBA Finals game won by the Phoenix Suns, and it’s one they’ll treasure for at least two days.
There is no time to get caught up in the moment, as Game Two plays on Thursday. And settling for a 1-1 split wouldn’t be good news for the Suns.
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 7, 2021
Taking both home games is imperative for the Suns. They are a primarily young unit, with the exception of point guard Chris Paul, who had a terrific Finals debut. Paul scored 32 points with his patented ball-screen jump shot on point.
Ever the professional, Paul isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“We’ve been building all season long for these moments,” Paul told ESPN. “We’re going to keep playing. This is just one game. We’ve got to stay locked in.”
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was quick to compliment the outstanding pick-and-roll game of the Suns, which torched the Bucks early.
“Their pick-and-roll game is tough to guard,” Budenholzer said. “I think we’ve just got to keep getting better. We’ll look at the film. We’ll see how we can maybe take away some of the rhythm.”
Devin Booker scored 27 points despite going 1-of-8 from the three. He made all 10 free throws, which is where he found his rhythm.
We expected a big game from Deandre Ayton and weren’t disappointed. The center shot 8-of-10 and had 19 rebounds for another quality double-double.
The only player with a poor game was Jae Crowder, who missed all eight shots and had just one point. However, as a whole, the Suns were thrilled with their performance.
Greek Freak Quiet in Return
The big news before Game One was the surprise return of Antetokounpo, but he had a relatively quiet night.
It wasn’t clear whether he was feeling the effects of his knee injury, but scoring 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting isn’t up to his usual standard. Khris Middleton took double the amount of shots, and both Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday took more shots — so the game plan was clear.
We expect Antetokounmpo to be better for Game 2, but playing injured isn’t a recipe for success. If the Bucks are going to tie the series, they need him to be at his best.
Deandre Ayton and Giannis Antetokounmpo each recorded 15+ points and 15+ rebounds tonight. The last player to put up 15+ points and 15+ rebounds in their first career NBA Finals game was Tim Duncan with 33 PTS, 16 REB in 1999. pic.twitter.com/SoudRqprz5
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) July 7, 2021
It was good for Milwaukee to see Middleton have an active game. He went 12-of-26 in 45 minutes. He didn’t get to the line, but his jump shot was working and the Bucks will need more of that.
Middleton talked about playing without Antetokounmpo in the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals against Atlanta, which resulted in consecutive victories.
“I mean, Giannis is a one-of-a-kind guy. We obviously all see his basketball talent, but as a human being he’s one of a kind,” Middleton said. “In my opinion, one of the biggest things we did the last two games was play for him, have his back and hold the fort while he was out with an injury.”
There was more flow to the Bucks offense with Antetokounmpo off the court, but he did grab 17 rebounds Tuesday, so he was a beast on the boards.
For Milwaukee to win at odds of +180, every member of the roster needs to lift to match the intensity of the Suns. NBA betting markets are giving the Bucks some respect, but they’ll need to improve.
Bucks vs Suns Betting Trends
The Bucks are 1-7 against the spread in the last eight meetings against the Suns, which doesn’t bode well.
They are 13-27-1 ATS in the last 41 playoff games as an underdog and 3-10 in the last 13 as an underdog. However, they are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games playing on one day of rest.
Phoenix is 11-3 ATS in its last 14 overall and 12-4 ATS in the last 16 games as a playoff favorite. The Suns are 5½-point favorites for Game Two.
They are 9-3 in the last 12 games as a home favorite, so playing under pressure is no worry for the Suns.
Bucks vs Suns Pick
We expect the Suns to take a commanding 2-0 lead. They were dominant on Tuesday and there was still room for improvement, which is a scary thought for Bucks backers.
The 5½-point line is fair given the 13-point margin in the opening game. Phoenix loves playing at home and we see no reason to jump off its back.