NBA Finals Game 3-Deer District Picks and Predictions
The Suns played a near perfect game en route to 118 points and a 115 offensive rating during their Game 2 win.
Every Suns player, except Abdul Nader who played one minute, posted a positive Plus/Minus. It also helps when you hit 20 threes at a 50% clip. Their only blunders were Chris Paul’s 6 turnovers especially two down the stretch of the fourth, a few sloppy Devin Booker entry passes to DeAndre Ayton from the top of the key, and several defensive lapses allowing Giannis to get to the rim with no resistance.
Giannis has a spectacular showing in Game 2 with 42 points on 15-22 shooting along with three blocks. Other than Pat Connaughton, no other Buck made more than one three. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton combined for 28 points on 12-37 from the field with 2 threes. That simply can’t happen. With an average Middleton game, the Bucks have a chance to win it. They need their closer to come up big down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Milwaukee was in striking distance with Giannis bringing them within 10 points with his third quarter dominance. It felt like there was always a chance the Bucks could come back and steal Game 2.
Milwaukee defended the Pick-n-Roll much better than in Game 1, forcing Book and CP3 to hit some extremely tough midrange fadeaways. The Bucks’ drop coverage was the reason the Suns’ guards were taking such tough looks. Holiday held his own as the primary defender, as did Jeff Teague and any other wing switched onto Chris or Book. Chris Paul should be relentlessly attacking any Bucks defender switched onto him. He’s a master at the PNR and a wizard when it comes to the midrange, even though he goes right or shammgods his way back to his right hand.
Throughout these entire playoffs, it’s been quite obvious the Bucks are more comfortable at home. Their defense takes it up several notches and they shoot better from three, although the numbers didn’t quite reflect that in the Brooklyn series. They were the best team in these playoffs at limiting the number of corner threes taking by their opponents and the Suns were getting those looks at will.
The Torrey Craig injury could prove detrimental for the Suns, as their core rotation could be shortened even more following Dario Saric’s need for knee surgery. This leaves Cam Johnson and Cam Payne as the only trustable bench players. Monte Williams is terrified to leave Frank Kaminsky on the court, as he played 5 minutes across the first two games. Nader was plugged in for defense down the stretch, but is only a few games back after a several month absence from the lineup. As mentioned in the previous blog, the Bucks need to attack the rim and get Ayton into foul trouble. Posting up Lopez a couple possessions each half should be a thought in Coach Bud’s mind. Middleton and Holiday need to stay in attack mode and draw fouls around the rim. The Bucks offense is totally different when they score in the paint. They were up 9 in the first half of Game 2, with 20 points in the paint to Phoenix’s 0. Being in attack mode will open up wide open looks for Connaughton, Bryn Forbes, and whichever off-guard is roaming the perimeter.
Like any team, Phoenix plays worse on the road. Their points per game drops by 5, but oddly enough they shoot a few percentage points better from three on the road. Book averages 2 points less and Chris Paul averages nearly 5 points more away from the desert.
Game 3 is a must win for Milwaukee (-4, ML -175). To recap, they need to limit corner threes, pick up Paul and Book at half court, and make sure they get downhill and attack the basket. When Bucks other than Giannis are getting to the rim, the team feels unstoppable and makes their offense multi-dimensional. They need to use their size and strength to attack the lack of Suns’ depth. The basketball community is waiting for the Bucks to finally start knocking down threes like they did in the regular season and this is their last chance. Middleton can’t have another choke-job.
Also Scott Foster has yet to officiate a game in this series. When he does, that’s an automatic loss for Chris Paul and his team.