Suns vs Bucks: NBA Finals Preview & Predictions
Chris Paul has finally made it to the NBA Finals. Can he capture his first ring?
This summer’s NBA Finals will feature the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks–just like we all predicted, right?
Eleven-time NBA All-Star and future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul has finally battled his way to the NBA Finals, a place that he has never been throughout the course of his legendary 15-year career.
Paul’s Suns have been a turnaround story for the ages, just one season removed from a 34-39 record and in the franchise’s first playoff appearance in over ten years, nonetheless. Paired with All-Star guard Devin Booker, the Suns steamrolled the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round before sweeping the Denver Nuggets in the semifinals.
In a series that would prove to be their greatest test thus far, Phoenix clinched a berth in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 after outlasting the Los Angeles Clippers in six games behind a masterful performance from Paul.
Coming out of the East are the Milwaukee Bucks, who battled their way past the Atlanta Hawks to a berth in the Finals for the first time since 1974.
The Bucks defeated a young Hawks team in six games without the services of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was lost due to a hyperextended knee in Game 4 and missed the final two games of the Conference Finals.
Milwaukee was lifted by huge performances from their other All-Star forward in Khris Middleton and two-way threat Jrue Holiday. Behind Middelton, Holiday and a massive performance from center Brook Lopez in Game 5 (33 points & 4 blocks), the Bucks were able to hold off Trae Young and the Hawks–a team that many considered the surprise of the postseason.
Now, it all comes down to this.
Antetokounmpo is the key difference maker in this series, as the Bucks will likely struggle against a talented Phoenix team if they are without their star player. It was reported by Jared Greenberg of NBA TV on Monday that the 26-year-old was working out privately in front of team trainers and personnel to determine his status for Game 1 on Tuesday night.
In two meetings against the Suns this season (both one-point losses), Antetokounmpo averaged 40.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 60-percent shooting from the field.
Phoenix struggled to slow Antetokounmpo down in both meetings, but were still able to outlast Milwaukee due to huge performances from Paul and Booker in both games. If Giannis is for even two games in this series and Phoenix is fully healthy like they are right now, it’s tough to see how Milwaukee comes out on top as NBA Champions.
With Antetokounmpo and Donte DiVincenzo out of the Bucks current rotation, they are very thin at the shooting guard and small forward positions.
Suns forwards Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Cam Johnson can all do their part in trying to contain Middleton while Paul battles Holiday on the perimeter.
Down low, Brook Lopez will have his hands full with 2018 number-one pick Deandre Ayton. Lopez, a member of the 2019-20 All-Defensive second team, is averaging 1.8 blocks per game this postseason.
Ayton has been a force in the paint this during his first taste of playoff action, as the 22-year-old holds averages of 16.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per game on a blistering 70-percent shooting from the field over 16 appearances.
When it comes down to it, the biggest factor in determining this series will be that of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the status of his knee.
If Giannis can play, I think Milwaukee becomes NBA Champions for the first time since 1971.
Phoenix has no clear answer for the 6’11 “Greek Freak”. With Giannis, Middleton and Holiday all on the floor together, the Suns might not have the manpower to slow down a Bucks offense that led the NBA in points per game this season.
The only problem is this: as of July 5th at 3:00pm PST, it doesn’t seem likely that the Phoenix Suns will be facing a healthy Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2021 NBA Finals.
It’s quite possible that they don’t see Antetokounmpo at all–and if they do, it could be in a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ situation.
Phoenix is healthy. Phoenix is deep. Phoenix has two guards that are on top of their game right now. Without a healthy Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks will in all likelihood be headed for another disappointing end to its season.
Give me the Suns in six.