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NBA Finals Game Two Preview: One down, three to go

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The Phoenix Suns can keep homecourt advantage with a win tonight over the Milwaukee Bucks

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NBA: Finals-Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Milwaukee Bucks (0-1) at Phoenix Suns (1-0)

When: 6:00 p.m. MST

Where: Phoenix Suns Arena

Watch: ABC

Listen: 98.7 FM


The NBA Finals cards are on the table: Giannis Antetokounmpo is active but hampered, Chris Paul is playing his best basketball of the season, and the Suns had an answer for every Bucks’ coverage on Tuesday night.

Whereas the Milwaukee Bucks spent Wednesday looking for answers, the Phoenix Suns played and spoke like the team in the driver’s seat — confident, ready and determined. Tonight, Phoenix has a chance to do what they’ve done in each of the past two playoff series and get out to a 2-0 series lead.


Projected starting lineups

Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton

Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, P.J. Tucker, Brook Lopez


Injury update

Dario Saric is out for the Suns with a torn ACL in his right knee, while the Bucks’ injury report is clean aside from Donte DiVincenzo (left ankle surgery)


The Suns’ side

It’s hard not to look at Game One and see a familiar pattern from throughout this year’s playoff run. The Suns open the series with a magnificent performance from one or both of Booker (34 points in Game One against the Lakers, a 40-point triple-double in Game One last round) or Paul (32 points on Tuesday) and then the defense adjusts, selling out to make the rest of the Suns’ offense beat them.

Then in true Suns fashion, that’s just what happens, as Paul and Booker change their game to set up teammates, allowing some combination of Deandre Ayton, Cameron Payne or any of the Suns’ armada of shooters to step up. It’s probably what we will see tonight in Game Two.

Many analysts have pointed out how the Suns’ 115 offensive rating was not quite as devastating as it appeared in real time on Tuesday night, and that the All-Star backcourt making their jumpers combined with free-throw brilliance is really what lifted the Suns over the top. While that may be true, it’s also what we’ve seen all year. So even if the Bucks go back to matching Holiday on Paul and Middleton on Booker, loading up extra help behind them, the Suns have seen it before.

Remember, the Suns shot just 32.4 percent from deep in Game One, and got basically nothing from Crowder on offense. There are other ways for this Suns team to win aside from Booker and Paul going off, and it starts with even more ball movement and pace.


The Bucks’ side

Milwaukee fans have every reason to be optimistic. They were far from their best in Game One, and even though the internet was fired up about Lopez getting exposed on the perimeter, he held up mostly fine and Milwaukee was competitive throughout the game aside from the third quarter. The Bucks’ offense got good shots to open the game and to close it, meaning they do have ways of scoring against the Suns.

But even if you assume that all continues with Antetokounmpo potentially playing more minutes and having an even better night in Game Two, one thing I keep returning to is the shooting. Are the Bucks going to have a better night all series than the 16-36 barrage they had in Game One?

Will Lopez make three triples again? Will Bryn Forbes and Pat Connaughton combine to shoot 4-6 from deep? Without that shooting performance, the Bucks will have to rely even more on Middleton to stay hot, Antetokounmpo to push himself even harder, and Holiday to wake up from his slumber. Every team only goes so far as their stars, but Milwaukee is depleted and thinner than the Suns, leaving them with a far smaller margin for error than the Suns have.

They got an outlier shooting game to open the series and blew it, and may not have luck in their favor to that extent again.


Prediction time!

How we feeling tonight, folks?

Poll

Who you got in Game Two?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    Suns in a close one
    (305 votes)
  • 25%
    Suns win in a blowout
    (113 votes)
  • 3%
    Bucks eek out their first win
    (16 votes)
  • 0%
    Bucks dominate the Suns
    (3 votes)
437 votes total Vote Now