What: Phoenix Suns (2-0) @ Milwaukee Bucks (0-2)
When: 5:00 p.m. AZ Time
Where: Fiserv Forum
Listen: 98.7 FM
The 2021 NBA Finals is changing locations, going from the scorching 110³+ temperatures in the Valley of the Sun to the western shores of Lake Michigan. 71° and showers tomorrow? Sign me up!
The Suns have mirrored the weather patterns of both host cities thus far in the Finals. They’ve been scorching hot this postseason, winning 14 of 18 games, and did so by showering the Bucks with three-pointers in Game 2. Milwaukee had no answer for the Suns in the first two games of the series. Whatever they threw at the Suns, Phoenix processed, navigated, and overcame.
Phoenix is two wins away from earning their first ever NBA Championship in franchise history. Of course being up 2-0 is the ideal situation for Phoenix, but there is still plenty of work to be done if they want to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy home.
The Bucks will not hand anything to the Suns. Phoenix will have to take it. It will be quite a scene at Fiserv Forum as Milwaukee will be hosting their first NBA Finals game since losing Game 7 of the 1974 Finals to the Boston Celtics. The Deer District will be ready to cheer their team on to victory.
The Suns will look to quiet that crowd.
Probable Starting Lineups
- Dario Saric (knee) is OUT
- Torrey Craig (knee) is PROBABLE
- Donte DiVincezo (foot) is OUT
What to Watch
Battle of the Backcourts
The Suns backcourt duo of Chris Paul and Devin Booker haven’t just been good thus far in the NBA Finals, they’ve been downright historic.
Chris Paul and Devin Booker (113 combined points this series so far) have surpassed Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's record for most points by a starting backcourt through 2 games of an NBA Finals over the last 50 seasons.— NBA History (@NBAHistory) July 9, 2021
Curry and Thompson had 106 combined in 2018. pic.twitter.com/HNQwnWBvHf
On the other side of the ball, however, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton have not. The two have combined for 67 points. They are shooting a combined 36.3%. Credit the Suns defense, sure, but expect one of the two to snap out of their funk when they hear the hometown cheers. Middleton is the obvious candidate for a breakout game, given his ability to be a flame thrower. He is an All-Star and an Olympian for a reason.
Expect plenty more of the Holiday press coverage in an effort to fluster and fatigue Chris Paul. It worked enough in Game 2 to generate six CP3 turnovers, something we have not seen much of this postseason. There is no reason why the Bucks would abandoned this strategy, in fact, you might see more of it. Holiday or Tucker, who ever it is, they will look to tire the Point God.
Chris Paul and Devin Booker will have to continue to exploit the Milwaukee defense in Game 3 and put up the points that will equate to a victory. So far, no matter what the look is, both have been successful at winning their battles. With these two focused on facilitating and generating the offense, they can do their part in tiring the opposing duo.
Given that the Bucks did the best job we’ve seen in the playoffs against Ayton relative to shooting percentage — he shot a playoff worst 40% in Game 2 — expect them to do what worked. Attack him. Put bodies on him. Clog the paint. Box him out.
The depth of the Phoenix Suns frontline is depleted. Dario Saric is out. Torrey Craig is listed as probable. Not only is it paramount that Deandre has a good game, he must avoid foul trouble at all costs. The frontline can’t handle much more than 10+ minutes with him not on the floor.
I don’t need a big box score from DA. I need him to be engaged, to be physical, and to be smart. His hustle, whether it is on the boards or in transition, is his greatness attribute.
You’re not stopping him. You’re not even containing him. He is an unbelievably unique talent who should be respected, especially considering what he’s done in the Finals just days after hyperextending his knee. He has heart. He has grit. He has class.
You’re using your fouls at the right moments and focusing your defense on those around him.
Keys to a Suns Win
The defensive intensity will be high in this game as the Bucks look to claw their way back into the series. Sprinkle in the fact that the crowd will be rowdy behind them, and the Suns will have to suppress the initial onslaught of emotion at the start of the game.
Phoenix will once again need their role players to play a big role in the game to pull out a victory. Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Payne, and Cameron Johnson will have the looks while Paul and Booker are attacked by the Bucks defense. The Suns are, in every sense of the word, a team and the perform as such on both ends of the floor.
I don’t think the Suns hit 118 points for the third straight game. It’ll be lower scoring, but the completeness of the Suns roster will win the day.
Suns 108, Bucks 102