The Phoenix Suns took Game 1 and set themselves up now to control the rest of the series against the Milwaukee Bucks. That would mean that Chris Paul and the Suns can focus on controlling the rest of the series. They are now -340 to win the championship per the NBA series prices.
The Bucks are not unfamiliar with losing the first game of the series and still finding a way to win. They’ll do it by ratcheting up their defense. The online sportsbook has the totals at 220½, which is lower than the 223 points from Game 1. Why? A more concerted defensive effort from Milwaukee and Phoenix will slow down the tempo.
Bucks: Playing Their Game
There were plenty of good takeaways for Milwaukee from Game 1 even in defeat. For one, the Bucks were the better shooting team. Milwaukee hit a postseason high 44.4 percent of their threes and they were 7-1 heading to the Finals when they shot better than 34 percent from deep.
Milwaukee also outrebounded Phoenix and was the more aggressive team. However, the Bucks were also sloppier and made more mistakes and got whistled for fouls more. That was the difference in the game as Milwaukee hit just nine free throws to Phoenix’s 25.
They’re in enemy territory, but Milwaukee needs to make Phoenix work a bit harder on the defensive end. Keep attacking the basket and applying pressure to Paul and Phoenix’s backcourt. Milwaukee should turn this into a grinding contest with no easy baskets on both ends.
Suns: Eye of the Tiger
Paul won’t be denied. It has been an incredible career for the future Hall of Famer who is now just three wins away from capturing his first Larry O’Brien Trophy. He led his Suns to the tune of 32 points and nine assists while shooting 12-of-19 from the field in Tuesday’s win.
Elite company 👀
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 7, 2021
The “Point God” is now the heavy favorite to win the NBA Finals MVP, per the NBA odds. But he had help from Deandre Ayton, who pulled down a monstrous 19 rebounds and stood tall going up against the bigger Bucks team.
Paul and the Suns aren’t the type to force turnovers, but they can edge Milwaukee in a battle of attrition. Phoenix will continue to patiently keep this game at a manageable pace. That’s good for them, but not for fans anticipating a high-scoring affair.
Pick: One Way or Another
Phoenix wins Game 2 because they have Paul. So long as the 11-time All-Star is able to orchestrate the offense, he’ll be able to control the game. That is a one-way track to another loss. Milwaukee is now searching for answers and it starts with Jrue Holiday.
The Bucks won’t beat Phoenix unless Holiday can elevate his game. Shooting 4-of-14 and being a -16 for Game 1 won’t do for the former All-Star. Giannis Antetokounmpo returned and battled for 17 boards but got into foul trouble.
Devin Booker, Paul’s running mate, shot just 8-of-21 but scored 10 points from the free throw line. Phoenix had a whopping 28.4 percent free throw to field goal attempt ratio. The defense should tighten up and neither team will play any more efficiently. This game can get uglier so bank on the scoring to dip.
Pick: Under 220½
Bonus Pick: Drying Up
Milwaukee shot 44 percent from three but still only managed to score 105 points. Part of that is due to bricking seven of their 16 free throws and part is scoring just 49 points in the first half. The Bucks shot just 42.9 percent as the Suns controlled the pace to their level. Don’t expect Milwaukee to shoot any better as their scoring continues to dwindle.