The NBA Finals have gotten off to the start everyone expected. The Phoenix Suns took the first game of the best-of-seven series, but that doesn’t mean the Milwaukee Bucks are ready to give up. There is a lot of action remaining and this season has already been full of surprises. IF the Bucks can figure out how to keep future Finals MVP Chris Paul in check, they have a chance at mounting a comeback.
Suns Start Strong in Game 1
The Suns knew they would be able to count on Paul to carry the team and he didn’t disappoint. In his first NBA Finals appearance, despite 17 years in the league, he ended the game with 32 points, going 12-for-19 from the field and 4-for-7 from beyond the paint. He was joined by five other Suns players, including Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, who all finished the night in the double-digit range in scoring. Booker had 27 and Ayton had 22. Paul’s performance makes him the first player since Michael Jordan in 1991 to score over 30 points and eight assists in an NBA Finals game.
The Suns easily took the game, 118-105, but the Bucks had a chance to be a larger threat. If they could have performed better at the foul line, instead of going 9 of 16, this would have been a potentially tighter game. Khris Middleton did everything he could to lead the charge, putting up 29 points and grabbing seven rebounds. He could have used some help from Giannis Antetokounmpo, but his knee injury has proved to be a bigger problem than expected. While killing it with rebounds, at 17, he was only able to muster 20 points in the game.
Suns Offense Too Much for the Bucks
The Suns dominated on offense, despite a relatively decent start for the Bucks. For almost all of the second period and the first few minutes of the third, the Suns outscored the Bucks 33-17, enough to pad the scoreboard and give them a little breathing room. The Bucks tried to mount a defense, but couldn’t find a way to stop Paul’s perfect night. Not even Jrue Holiday was able to help, adding just ten points to the Bucks’ score.
The Bucks recovered in the fourth and closed the gap, but the Suns came out strong once again, going on a 13-6 run to extend their lead one more time. It was expected that the Suns would win, so there wasn’t much money to be made on a moneyline bet. However, for gamblers who went after the Over, they were given a nice little addition to their bank.
Game 2 Promises More of the Same
The Bucks are going to have to tighten their defense in Game 2 in order to mount a threat against Paul and the Suns. They know this already and are likely already working on a new strategy for tomorrow’s game, but will still have a difficult time. If Antetokounmpo can continue to improve and bounce back from his injury, he will be a decisive factor in the Bucks’ performance.
The Suns have now defeated the Bucks in all three of the games they have played this season – two regular-season matchups and one postseason matchup. The Bucks would like nothing more than to bring that trend to a grinding halt tomorrow night, but they won’t be able to do it without making some major shifts on the clipboard. There’s enough time to prepare, and this will undoubtedly be another great game to close out an unusual NBA season.