9:05 PM EST
Suns -4 over Bucks
I came into this series thinking that the Suns would win in five or six games and nothing I saw in Game 1 made me think any differently, in fact it only reinforced my thinking. Phoenix is the much deeper, more talented team and they match up extremely well with Milwaukee. With Giannis still recovering from his knee injury, the Suns have at worst two of the three best players in this series. If the Bucks have any hopes of winning a road game in this series (which is what it will take for them to win the title with the Suns owning home court advantage) they are going to have to have a game where they shoot the lights out. However, in Game 1 they shot it about as well as they could— 50% from the field and 45% from 3 point range yet still lost by double digits. Giannis looked healthy and grabbed a whopping 17 rebounds while Kris Middleton had a great game shooting 46% from the field including five threes good for 29 points. Even with all of that, the Suns ran them off the court and could have easily won by 20+ if they kept the pedal down the entire game. That does not bode well for the Bucks moving forward as it is going to be hard for them to continue to shoot at that high percentage while the Suns as a whole have the potential to play much better.
I do think when this goes back to Milwaukee they will make this a series by defending home court (at least for one game), but I just don’t see the Bucks winning any games on the road, at least this early in the series. Monty Williams coached circles around Mike Budenholzer in Game 1 and nothing about Coach Bud’s history makes me think he is going to be able to make any meaningful adjustments just yet. Chris Paul absolutely abused the Bucks in the pick-and-roll for three quarters, easily torching Lopez and Portis with his patented mid-range jumpers every time they switched to him. It was extremely obvious but it took Budenholzer until the fourth quarter to realize that he needed to go small to have the speed to counter the Sun’s backcourt. He did eventually move to a smaller lineup moving Giannis to the five and not playing Lopez or Portis for any meaningful minutes in the fourth quarter and that adjustment did allow the Bucks to temporarily cut the score to single digits. However, I’m not sure how sustainable that adjustment is because even though Lopez is a defensive atrocity in the pick-and-roll, it’s not like they can really limit his minutes too much because he is too valuable on the offensive end. The Bucks also had no answer at all for Deandre Ayton who destroyed them in the paint and on the boards, and going to a small lineup isn’t going to solve that problem. The Bucks still have a lot of tinkering to do and it’s a big ask of them to figure it out on the fly only two days later while still playing on the road in a very hostile environment.
As I said in my Game 1 writeup, Budenholzer coached teams always start notoriously slow in series and it will likely take at least one more game of experimenting and adjusting for him to figure out how to slow down the Suns — if it ever happens. Phoenix, on the other hand, has plenty of room to improve as Booker only went 1-8 from three in Game 1 while Crowder was 0-8. Usually when those two play that poorly, the Suns lose. Not only did they win, they still blew the Bucks out. I expect the Bucks to go smaller so CP3 won’t have as big of a game as he did in Game 1 because he won’t have all of those mismatches in the pick and roll, but I look for Booker to pick up the slack by continuing to get to the free throw line and shooting much better from three this game. It will take a defensive clinic out of the Bucks coupled with another 45% shooting night for them to win this game, and I just do not see that happening. In the playoffs the team who won the game has covered the spread 95% of the time, and I look for that to continue tonight as the Suns take a 2-0 lead and find a way to cover this short spread in the process. Take the Suns.
Line Parameter: 3u at -4.5 or lower, 2u at -5 or higher.