The Suns looked dominant and easily in control, but the series is not yet over.
The Suns have begun each series by winning Game 1, and have only dropped four games in winning the first three of those series (13-4 record now), but the Bucks won’t go quietly like the Nuggets did.
This is the NBA Finals. The Bucks have a two-time MVP who nearly posted his own 20/20 game coming off a knee issue that will only get better, two other All-Stars in their lineup, all in their primes. They have the best defense of all playoff teams. Three of the next five games are at the friendly confines of Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum.
The Bucks lost the first two games to Brooklyn, badly even, yet came back to win 4 of the next 5 to take the series from Kevin Durant’s clutches. Then in the Conference Finals, they lost Game 1 at home to the Hawks, then came back to win 4 of the next 5 to close the series.
“We can get better,” coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game. “It’s something we live by. It’s one of our mantras, just keep getting better.”
Point guard Jrue Holiday agreed that the Bucks have been quite resilient in these playoffs.
“I think it’s IQ. I think it’s character,” Holiday said of their comebacks. “I think it’s going through things during the season for us to get to this point and make adjustments. I also think it’s playing against different teams in the playoffs. Miami was different from Brooklyn and Brooklyn was different from Atlanta. We have a lot of references to go back to.”
Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has similar trust in his team.
“We were down 2-0 and we were able to come back and then we lost the first game against Atlanta and we were able to find a way,” Giannis said. “We just have to keep finding a way.”
This series is not over, Suns fans.
Settle in for a very competitive, possibly long, series.
Here’s more snippets of the Bucks’ comments after losing Game 1 in Phoenix.
On Chris Paul picking apart the Bucks switching defense in the second half to help build the Suns big lead
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: “So yeah, he’s a good player. Their pick-and-roll game is tough to guard. I think we have to just keep getting better. We have to keep looking at the film and see how we can maybe take away some of the rhythm, or make it where he’s not getting into his spots as easily. That will be a big part of looking between Game 1 and Game 2.”
On Giannis not only returning for Game 1, but moving well enough to post 20 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a big block in transition defense
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: “I think there were a lot of good things, considering five days and what he’s been through these last five, six, seven days. I think 17 rebounds, 20 points, some great play-making, passing, defending the rim, he’s just like everybody else. I’m sure we’ll find some things where he could be better.
“I think it usually takes him playing — he’s a rhythm guy. So, I’m excited about how he’ll improve from Game 1 to Game 2. We’ll see how he feels. But I think play-wise, he always gets better when he plays.”
On whether Giannis might play more of the center role in a small-ball lineup in Game 2
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: “Him playing at the five has been something that’s been good for us in stretches, and so we’ll look at it. Hopefully we’ll look and see if we can get our best combos out there. Sometimes each night it changes.
On what went wrong in Game 1
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: “You know, I think they executed well offensively. You know, I think can we be better defensively, make things a little more difficult. I think that’s the thing. And I think their transition, maybe more so in the first half, the transition, felt like it hurt us. You know, they got some clean, good looks at threes.
“So, it’s like most games. You’ve got to be good in transition. You’ve got to be able to guard in the half-court and rebound. We’ve got to be able to do all that better.”
Are the Bucks suffering from playing too many games in too few days?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: “Not really. You know, I think we played on Saturday. Now it’s Tuesday. We’ve had a couple days. But everything adds up.
“But I don’t think the travel or the timing or anything; if we played well and won, we’d have talked about we’re in a good rhythm and things like that. I don’t think you can flip it and use that as, you know — and really, the first quarter, I thought we were good, at halftime; there was just a stretch in the third quarter where we’ve just got to be better.”
On what was the difference for the Bucks to shoot so well, but lose the game anyway
JRUE HOLIDAY: “First half they got a lot of fouls. They were at the free throw line a lot. We’ve got to do better with that. D-Book got to the free throw line. Great free throw shooting team. Second half did better but I just think Chris Paul got a little too comfortable.”
On the fans collectively counting to 10+ during his free throw prep routine
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: “No, it hasn’t come to an end, and I think it’s something that’s going to follow me for the rest of my career. So, I’ve just got to embrace it and have fun with it. But at the end of the day I’m just focusing on my routine, my technique, my body, and as I said, it’s not going to stop, so I just have to learn to live with it.”
On whether he hears them, or block them out
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: “Of course, 20,000 people yelling, “one, two, three, four,” you notice that. But as I said, like I’ve learned to embrace it. Like I know it’s not going to stop. You know, at the end of the day when it keeps going, like it fades away. You know, there’s times that the first free throw I hear it but the fifth one, sixth one, I’m not hearing no more and I’m just focusing on what I’ve got to do and my routine.”
On Chris Paul and Devin Booker being so good in the mid-range and how to combat that going forward
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: “Just got to keep making it tough on them, tough as possible. They are going to get a lot of shots to go. Great playmakers. Most of the time, they are going to make the right decision. The ball is going to be in their hands a lot. Just have to make it as tough as possible. Keep them in front. Make them shoot twos, but tough twos. And obviously, we know that’s what they want to get to.
“But at the end of the day, they are great players. Like all you can do is contain them as much as possible. Maybe we have to pick them up full court, I don’t know. We’ve got to go watch the tape and see what we can do better as a team and hopefully we can make adjustments from Game 1 to Game 2 and just make it more tough for them.”