Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns - 9:00 pm ET (ABC)
The NBA Finals are here. It’s exciting to have two new teams competing at this stage of the season, with both possessing plenty of offensive firepower and quality defense. There are lots of intriguing matchup and tactical factors to look forward to as well, from how the Suns protect the paint against Giannis Antetokounmpo, to how the Bucks structure their pick-and-roll defense against two top creators in Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
The Bucks have added more variety to their defensive coverages this season and that carried into their second-round matchup, as they started switching everything which was essential to them slowing down Trae Young and the Hawks. Using plenty of switching (and bringing Brook Lopez fairly high in his drop coverages) should be a factor again against Phoenix as the Bucks try to contain their elite, diverse pick-and-roll attack led by Paul and Booker.
As for the Suns’ defense, their communication is sharp and their rotations are crisp. They also have plenty of size on the wings to use against the Bucks’ array of scorers with guys like Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder. Not to mention the fact that Deandre Ayton has been brilliant in the playoffs. He’s finishing strong and averaging 16.2 points per game on 70.6 percent shooting, rebounding at a high rate, and playing terrific defense. Ayton has gone up a level all around, playing the best basketball of his career at just the right time. How the Suns work to contain Antetokounmpo’s drives and how Ayton is able to use his size and agility to contest the two-time MVP inside will obviously be key.
Of course, the biggest question mark right now when projecting how this series could go is the health of Antetokounmpo, who suffered a left knee hyperextension in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta. At the moment, he’s been upgraded from doubtful to questionable for Game 1 and it looks like it’ll be a game-time decision whether he plays.
Personally, I’m picking the Suns to win this series in six games. If Giannis misses Game 1 or is limited at all from his typical freakish athletic self for some of this series, then the Suns will gain more of an edge. Phoenix has been one of the league’s top teams all season for a variety of reasons. They have a top-seven offense and defense, the duo of Paul and Booker, ideal supporting starters like Bridges and Ayton who have continued to improve, excellent depth with role players like Cameron Payne and Cameron Johnson, and impressive play against good opponents all year to reinforce what they’re capable of.
Share your predictions in the comments, and enjoy the game!