Many signs still point to Suns winning the NBA title despite being down 3-2

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After busting through so many ceilings this season, the Phoenix Suns maybe just may have finally hit a ceiling they cannot breach. They have lost three straight games and are just one loss away from losing the Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Suns now have to travel back to Milwaukee and play the Bucks in Game 6 on Tuesday night. A loss, and the Suns season is over. A win, and they force the Bucks to come back to Phoenix for Game 7.

“We got to win one game to put them back on the plane. That’s it,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said after the Game 5 loss.

That’s it. Just win on the road, in a place where the Bucks are 9-1 this postseason.

Eezy peezy.

Just beat a Bucks team that’s getting better every game, making all the right clutch plays to steal the last two games of the series from the Suns in the closing minutes.

No problemo.

Just beat a team that’s already going down in Finals history for ‘The Block’ and the ‘The Oop’.


Just beat a veteran playoff team twice in a row with your NBA version of the Indians from Major League. Monty Williams as manager Lou Brown. Chris Paul as the venerable Jake Taylor. Devin Booker as flamethrower Ricky Vaughn. Al McCoy as Harry Doyle. I could go on.

Except these Suns not only went on to ‘win the whole damn thing’ by making the playoffs, they got all the way to the Finals before being hit with a haymaker.

How they respond to that haymaker is the big question now. They have had difficulty maintaining the necessary consistent emotional effort — which coach Monty Williams calls ‘force’ — after taking that 2-0 lead against a team loaded with playoff veterans along the lineup and the coaching staff.

They lost their focus in the NBA Finals for all of Game 3 (Devin Booker scored 10 measly points and was benched the whole fourth quarter in a 20-point loss) and the whole second and third quarters of Game 5.

They lost their poise in the clutch, committing live-ball-fast-break-score turnovers in both Game 4 and 5 with a chance to tie or take the lead with under two minutes left.

And because of that they lost their advantage in the NBA Finals.

“Head space, mental stamina, all that stuff, like it boils down to getting it done,” coach Williams said. “You have to have that determination that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to put them back on the plane. So, we can call it what we want to, mental toughness, all of that stuff, but it’s going to be needed and our guys are capable of doing it. This is our first time in this position and we can do it.”

The Suns have done the unexpected and unprecedented this year.

No team in NBA history has gone from a 10-year playoff drought to the NBA Finals in their first trip back to the postseason.

No team in NBA history has gone from one of the league’s bottom-two records to the NBA Finals in just two short years.

No team in NBA history posted such an awful three-year, four-year or five-year regular season record immediately preceding their NBA Finals year.

The Suns aren’t supposed to be here. You can credit injury luck if you want, but the NBA’s been around for 72 years now and injuries have been around since the dawn of time so you should give credit to the team too.

This situation is the toughest the Suns have ever faced, and we simply cannot predict how the team will respond to this level of adversity.

“Everything we want is on the other side of hard and it don’t get no harder than this,” point guard Chris Paul said after the Game 5 loss.

Paul scored 21 points, dished 11 assists and committed only one turnover. Devin Booker scored 40 points — his second straight 40+ point Finals game — and Deandre Ayton put up 20 points and 10 rebounds. They made 55% of their shots and 68% of their threes.

But the Suns just could not stop the Bucks from making virtually every shot they put up. More on that later.

So you’re saying there’s a chance

This is the 30th time that the NBA Finals was tied at 2-2.

The team that has won Game 5 has gone on to win the title 72.4% of the time (21-8). That is actually lower than the overall playoffs number, which is 82.1% all-time for all rounds.

So, the team that lost Game 5 in the Finals has come back to win both games six and seven a surprising 8 times in 30 chances.

The last team to lose Game 5 and go down 3-2 in the series but go on to win the title was the 2013 Miami Heat over the San Antonio Spurs. Oh that Ray Allen step-back three in Game 6...

There hasn’t even been a 2-2 tie since 2015, when the Warriors closed out LeBron’s Cavaliers in games 5 and 6 to finish off their first title. You might remember the Cavaliers had lost their second and third best players, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, to injury.

This Game 6 will seriously test the Suns mettle. Their resilience. Their relentlessness. Let’s hope the team actually takes it the way Deandre Ayton put it.

“Tables are turned now,” Ayton said after the Game 5 loss. “Now we’re the desperate team. We had our chances of being up and trying to finish the job, now we’re in the same position that they were in. They’re up and now we got to go get it. That’s why it’s a little bit more fun.”

You’re asking yourself how the heck the Suns can turn the tide on the road in Game 6, aren’t you?

The Bucks figured the Suns out. If the Suns haven’t solved the Bucks yet, it’s too late.


Evening out the possession battle

After giving up 8 more shots per game over the first four games, the Suns actually matched the Bucks in shot attempts (87) in Game 5 because they matched the offensive rebound + steals total (19 apiece).

If the Suns have solved for the Bucks getting more possessions, they have a great chance to win because the Suns are (almost always) the better shooting team.

Crazy good shotmaking by Bucks

To win Game 5, the Bucks needed every contested bucket to make the final 4-point margin. The Suns played really good defense on Saturday night despite the Bucks making so many shots. More than half the Bucks shots were tightly contested, which is well above league average.

In Game 5:

You might say, well the Bucks contested shots are at the rim so of course they will make more!

And I would say, keep reading.

Compare that to the 4 previous Suns-Bucks games in the Finals...

Dave, what does that mean?

That means the Suns have been contesting more than half the Bucks shots tightly (closest defender within 4 feet) all series, and on Saturday night the Bucks just happened to make a lot more of them (59% vs. 46%), which equated to 14 extra points because two of those extra shots were threes! On the other hand, the Suns scored eight fewer points than usual on tightly contested shots in Game 5. That’s a 20-point swing right there on contested shot-making.

Maybe the Bucks were just reverting to form from the prior playoffs series, artificially held down by the Suns until Game 5? Nah. For the playoffs, prior to Game 5, the Bucks made 46% of their contested shots, while the Suns have been making 49% of theirs all playoffs. Just like Games 1-4 of the Finals.

Game 5 was an extreme positive aberration in shooting for the Bucks and a less-extreme negative aberration for the Suns.

Just as the Suns solved for the disparity in possessions that hurt them in Games 1-4, they lost Game 5 because the Bucks shot the ball incredibly well.

“Well, I just think that the turnovers and the offensive rebounding, we corrected that,” coach Williams said after the game. “But they shot 50 percent from three. That was something that kind of gave them the edge. So, they didn’t get those points off of turnovers and offensive rebounding, but they got it from the three-point line.”

And on contested shots from any range, coach.

To Monty’s point, the Bucks made 50% of their threes to offset a 40-point night from Booker, just like the Suns in Game 2 made 50% of threes to offset a 40-point night from Giannis and give the Suns that 2-0 lead in the series.

After five games, the Bucks have a 3-2 series lead but only scored seven more points than the Suns and their wins have come in thrilling fashion with ‘The Block’ and ‘The Oop’, both after improbable Suns turnovers in the clutch.

Clutch Kings and Road Warriors

Including the regular season and the playoffs up through the Finals, the Suns were 29-13 in the clutch* while the Bucks were 17-16.

*defined as games within 5 points in the final 5 minutes

The Bucks may be 9-1 at home in the 2021 playoffs, but the Suns had the league’s best road record this year (30-16 including playoffs) so they know how to win on the road.

In fact, the Suns are so good on the road they’ve closed out all three previous opponents on the road in these 2021 Playoffs. They beat the Lakers in Games 4 and 6, the Nuggets in Games 3 and 4, and the Clippers in Games 4 and 6.

Bottom Line

I seriously doubt these boys will give up now.

What I’m saying here is that the Suns are not dead.

And all the Suns coaching staff has to do is show the players the film, build their spirits back up, and get them ready to work harder than they ever have before when they play Game 6 on Tuesday night.

And who knows, we might just be back in Footprint Center on Thursday after all.


We go to Milwaukee

And win game 6, then come home and win game 7 and everyone will say what a great series it was.


"RALLY THE VALLEY" now takes on its’ true meaning.

Not when you’re getting Cliff Paul instead of Chris Paul.

We may be on to something by the way

Putting bridges on holiday and book on Middleton was effective towards the end.

The fact of the matter is that CP3 is obviously injured. It starts and ends with CP3.

He is obviously nowhere near 100%. I would wager he is about 60% as he cannot crossover in his normal fashion, he often loses control of the ball, and isn’t a threat from mid-range. At present we have only one monster of mid-range with the second monster relegated to spot up shooter. With a team full of spot up shooters, we are desperate for another playmaker, and basically accept the Buck’s play style and try to play within their scheme and style instead of imposing our will and style….it starts mostly on the defensive side. Suns could not get any stops last game. On offense, Booker is great and doing an incredible job. But, he can post 50 points each game and we will lose anyway if we continue in this fashion…. If either Cam P or CP3 can’t get it going, we can’t win…. Consistent effort, sharing the rock like in the 1st quarter, and no fear will get the W.

It is a near miracle the Suns have gotten this far. Covid, injuries, or luck have played their part in this story. I will for one not be angry if the team can’t overcome this valley, but I will feel regret. The team when fully healthy and clicking on all cylinders is incredible, smart, and sometimes awe inspiring basketball.

Suns, dig in deep. Play your bball and impose your will, and it will be the greatest Suns script ever written.
Go Suns!!!!!!

At some point the injury excuse just gets old.

Is there a chance he’s injured? Sure. He always seems to get injured.

It doesn’t help that Mikal hasn’t been good. Cam Payne hasn’t done anything. Crowder disappearing at times. Ayton being more regular season Ayton than post season Ayton in the finals. But I give Ayton a pass because we literally have no competent big men behind him and Ayton has to do everything as a big.

And it certainly doesn’t help that Monty hasn’t been all that good. Call a spade a spade. They’re wetting the bed on biggest stage. Their big three is out playing our big three. Budenholzer is coaching circles around Monty.

And Jrue Holiday has been head and shoulders better than Paul. That cannot happen.

And Jrue didn’t do anything in those first two games.

Jrue is giving Paul the business and Paul doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.

well yes, he is guarding an injured player.

The question is… should the injured player be playing and if so what minutes.


Jrue started slow in the Hawks’ series, too, then played much better as the series went on and he sorted out what was needed and got more familiar with the opponent. He makes adjustments.

Jrue vs Paul in the finals

In the finals, Jrue has more assists than CP3 (54 vs 44), less turnovers (10 vs 18) and way better /- (25 vs -3)

Jrue actually only has 45 assists (just 1 more then CP3) vs the Suns, not 54. The turnover numbers are correct and CP3’s high level of TO’s in this series has been discussed to death.

my bad, it was a typo

45 is correct

To show everyone how even the series has been:

Quarters Phoenix has won: 10
Quarters Milwaukee has won: 9
Quarters tied: 1

I still feel like the Suns can go into Milwaukee with their backs against the wall and execute because everyone is expecting the Bucks to close it out and come out with a win. Then in game 7….wow. That’ll be a hell of a game.

He is injured, It is obvious in his ball handling.

He also mentioned getting the MRI for torn ligaments in his hand…. not great. If Cam Payne was playing up to his standards before he rolled his ankle, I would be all for starting him and CP3 playing back up minutes. Ayton is great on defense, but cannot create for himself especially in crunch time, Much of the teams success is predicated on the play-making and gravity of Booker and CP3. Having both it is a pick your poison for the opposing team. Without having near 100 percent of both, the magic disappears.

Payne to the hoop has been money so he should stick to that instead of rainbows. He gets blocked if the move is from the right side coz of him being southpaw. He should use the left side with his strong arm and protect his shots with the right hand.

I still believe the suns win this series

Now they will have to fight uphill for what they truly want. I don’t see them failing.

It’ll happen let’s just keep the faith.

The team has been seriously slapped across the face in a way they haven't before for the first time, in my opinion.

It looks as if CP3 has two injured wrists (noticed the wrap on the left wrist) and clearly cannot dribble, pass, shoot the ball as he has the majority of the playoffs. His passing has been way off, too off to just be good D by the Bucks.

However, I will absolutely give credit to the Bucks. How can you not? Giannis is playing out of his mind. He’s got the energy and focus over the last three games needed to negate whatever DA has been doing and he has intensified the level of hustle his entire team plays with.
Credit Holiday. He is playing under control and with defensive poise.
What I’m seeing as a constant over the last three games is that the Suns are not dictating to the Bucks what kind of game is going to be played. They are falling into the Bucks hands. They are being forced to play one on one more and more often, which the Suns seem to slip into when the game starts getting away from them.
Have you noticed how the ball movement has all but stopped at key moments in the game? It’s a one on one, quick shots that are contested and all the Suns players are standing out on the perimeter which is having a serious effect on the second-chance points. Look how quickly the Bucks players swarm and surround whoever has the ball and completely clog up any passing lanes.
DA cannot be relied on to ‘make’ a play down low. They have figured him out – he brings the ball down and loses the handle on it. His refusal many times to go up fast and put it down hard allows the Bucks to block and disrupt him. I realize his rebounding number was respectable but the eye test showed many times he was out of position – sometimes embarrassingly – on many key possessions where the Bucks got second and even third opportunities to score on and extended possession. He must be more aggressive to pick up some fouls on the bucks big guys or they’re going to kill him at the end of the game when they have fouls to give. The Bucks have gone to a huge lineup and it shows in the second chance points.

Let’s be honest here. The Suns go as CP3 goes and he clearly hasn’t been himself since game two. If he’s injured, ok – that’s bad luck – but the Suns have shown the ability to play SMARTER and with a level of poise. The need to get back to moving and sharing the ball, get the 50/50 balls and NOT turn the ball over. And they need to HUSTLE! Play with urgency! Swarm the ball and stay on the shooters while clogging the passing lanes! They’ve go no choice anymore.

This is it. Time to put up. Play your best game, pay no attention to the refs because it’s clear you cannot control how they call it. Play like it’s your last game because it just might be. My hope is that they come back and get to play a game seven. We shall see.

Brook Lopez is probably the best in the league at boxing out

Plus last two games Ayton has been further out, Lopez is so big he can deal crowder and box out, kind of leading to the rebounding edge.

I don’t know that the sun’s figured anything out on the glass, there just wasn’t many rebounds. As neither team missed much

This... Can only REC you once

Great great analysis.

It’s sad to have to be here writing when the Suns could well have won the series 4-1. The mistakes of the game 4 and the monumental error of game 5 (from my point of view in the last possession you just had to let time pass and look for a shot, if you score you win the game, it is a heads or tails, but you don’t give the the rival the option to have another possession, and of course it should be CP and not Booker who ran the offense). Statistics are fine but arn’t an exact science; the Suns can win the next game, almost all of them have been very tight, and we’re here because we think they can win.

To be fair, without shooting 50% from 3 in game 2

They also could have lost 1-4 at this point

You'd be real happy if someone injured CP3 and the Bucks walked away with a 4-1 series win

We get it

Thanasis Antetokounmpo entered the league’s health and safety protocol in the midst of the pandemic, a few hours before the vital Game 5 against the Suns.
It is rare that Giannis, who is always with his brother, having a very close relationship, is not affected.
Conspiracy theory?

More news.

An update is coming either late today or early tomorrow. More assistants and players will be in safety protocol before game 6. Is for sure.


It just depends, partly, on whether Giannis is vaccinated. Vaccinated players are not required to quarantine, due to exposure, unless they have a positive test. No conspiracy.

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