When the sun set on Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals it was the Phoenix Suns who set the tone at home during the first game of the series with a 118-105 win vs. the Milwaukee Bucks. Let’s take a look at some things we learned from this game to try and better understand what it will take for the Bucks to even up the series tonight in Game 2.
Chris Paul Dominant in his first Finals appearance
It only took 16 seasons, 5 different teams, and a number of heartbreaking postseasons, but Chris Paul has made his first NBA Finals. The 11 time all-star showed that he’s still at the top of his game dropping 9 assists and 32 points. 16 of which came during a 3rd quarter run that included Paul shooting 6-7 and sinking all 3 of his 3 point attempts. Paul’s the smartest player on the court, and a field general able to carve up the usually staunch Bucks defense when the ball is in his hands.
Deandre Ayton Feasted Inside
To put it simply, Deandre Ayton was unstoppable in Game 1. The big man shot 80% from the floor making 8 out of his 10 shots. Ayton knows his skill set and used his big frame to get open off the pick and roll, or post up on smaller defenders if the defense chose to switch. His furthest attempt came from 10ft and every other made shot came from within 4ft of the hoop. Add to that the 19 rebounds he collected, and Ayton showed he is a force to be reckoned with in the paint.
Giannis Healthy, but not Assertive
Bucks fans were elated to see the Greek Freak suit up for Game 1 and attack the basket early, driving to the rim for two dunks late in the first quarter. However, we didn’t see him attacking the rim like we’ve become accustomed to. In fact Giannis only attempted two shots in the entire 4th quarter.
What will it take for the Bucks to win Game 2?
Giannis only attempted 11 shots in Game 1, a far cry from his season average of 20.4. Perhaps the knee injury that kept him out of two games in the Hawks series is still nagging him. Regardless, Antetokounmpo will need to return to form and look to physically dominate the Suns for the Bucks to have any chance tonight or in the rest of the series. Milwaukee will be forced to make some changes defensively. They were burned by the Suns pick and roll game in which the Bucks often chose to switch the matchup. This left Chris Paul to attack a less than mobile big, or allowed a feed and easy finish inside for Deandre Ayton who found himself posting up smaller perimeter defenders.
Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer has been willing to make defensive adjustments in the past, and he will need to do that again before the opening tip of tonight’s game. Look for the Bucks to either fight through the pick and stay on their matchups when possible, or double the ball carrier on picks and rotate to the cutting big from the backside of the play. If there was one weak point in the Sun’s Game 1 offense it was shooting from behind the arc. They only shot 32.4% from deep compared to Milwaukee’s 44.4%. The Bucks need to take away high percentage interior shots in Game 2 and hope that the Suns don’t get hot from 3 point range.