NBA Finals Game 2
Chris Paul is certainly not the most athletic player on the court during these finals, but he is by far the best at using angles, both off the Pick-N-Roll and otherwise, dropping 32 points and 9 assists in Game 1.
One big differentiator in Game 1 was the free throw line. Phoenix is the best free throw shooting team in NBA Playoff history, percentage wise. They shot 25-26 and did not miss a single one… until Jae Crowder went to the line during the last minute of the game. The Bucks shot 16 free throws, and Giannis alone took 12 of those. The free throw disparity is not the reason for the Suns handily winning Game 1, but it is important to note because the Bucks had the lowest foul rate in the entire NBA.
Giannis surprised everyone by playing, and said he felt fine, even though he was originally expected to be out the rest of the playoffs. He was moderately effective, and only took 11 shots, but had that incredible chase down block. Its up to speculation whether or not the knee was bothering him, however he still needs to take more shots for the Bucks to be successful. Milwaukee simply can’t win with Khris Middleton being the main offensive option. Giannis needs to get to the rim in order to open up the three point line.
The Bucks need to make adjustments for their PNR defense. They can’t rely on Brook Lopez to guard Chris Paul or Devin Booker on switches. They’ll probably go to the drop defense, which will allow Lopez to be around the paint more, and be at his most effective defensively. Benching Brook Lopez is completely out of the question. Jrue Holiday needs to step it the up, which is an understatement. He wasn’t effective offensively in Game 1, after he had great showings when Giannis was out in the ECF. He certainly can’t get cooked like he did on defense.
Phoenix (-5.5, ML -215) got terrific production out of CP3, and especially from DeAndre Ayton with a near 20-20 game in Game 1. Book was not efficient other than at the foul line, and Jae Crowder had one of his patented off-nights, going a disgusting 0-8 from the field. Mikhail Bridges was not good on O either, but that can be attributed the wings lack of success in contrast to Milwaukee’s stout defense. One prime example of this would be Joe Harris in the Nets/Bucks series. The two of them can shoot better. Cam Johnson was the most surprising on defense, with key plays in Game 1, including stripping Giannis and Middleton.
Some other key adjustments for Game 2 are for the Bucks to use Holiday-Giannis PNRs and to attack CP3 on defense to slow him down offensively. Dario Saric going down is terrifying for Phoenix since it weakens their roster depth. Giannis needs to get downhill and attack Ayton to get into foul trouble. The Suns don’t have anyone to replace him off the bench.
This series is going to be closer with Giannis playing from the jump. I still stand by my pick for the Suns to win the series, most likely in 6 or 7. I finally got back on the right side of things with a winning pick in Game 1. Game 2 will be much closer than the blowout in Game 1, so Bucks +5.5 could be a play. However, here’s what I’m going with:
The Pick: Suns ML -215