Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks - 9:00pm ET (ABC) - Suns lead 1-0
The 2021 NBA Finals tipped off two nights ago and it was good news, bad news, for the Eastern Conference’s Milwaukee Bucks. The good news was that Giannis Antetokounmpo was cleared to play after missing two games with a hyperextended left knee, and he looked like his usual self in recording 20 points and 17 rebounds across 35 minutes of action. This does not look like a man hindered by injury:
GIANNIS SUPERHUMAN BLOCK pic.twitter.com/5nbETqLGmc— ESPN (@espn) July 7, 2021
The bad news, though, is that the Phoenix Suns still looked like the superior team, controlling the action for basically the entire game en route to a 118-105 win and 1-0 series lead. Chris Paul, who entered these NBA Finals as the odds-on favorite for MVP, did nothing to dispel that notion, dropping a game-high 32 points to go along with nine assists. Paul entered Point God mode in the third quarter, scoring 16 points in the period on 6-of-7 shooting, including a perfect 3-of-3 from downtown. As one-time Sixers assistant Monty Williams said after the game, “When it’s going like that, you just want to space the floor well and let him orchestrate.” Not a bad NBA Finals debut for CP3:
Elite company— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 7, 2021
Chris Paul is the first player with 30 points and 8 assists in an #NBAFinals debut since Michael Jordan in 1991. pic.twitter.com/6gNKVNQvcd
What can Milwaukee do differently in Game 2? For starters, they’ll need a better shooting performance from Jrue Holiday, who dropped nine assists but shot just 4-of-14 from the field. Defensively, they also need to figure out how to stop Paul and Devin Booker with the ball at the top. Milwaukee started Game 1 switching, but the Suns successfully hunted out Brook Lopez and took advantage of the big man with their quicker guards. When Coach Bud reverted to drop scheme, the Phoenix stars knocked down the open jumpers afforded to them. Truthfully, it’s a difficult task for the Bucks, as the Suns are well-constructed with two elite shot makers and distributors, with a terrific roll man in Deandre Ayton and solid floor spacers around them.
Phoenix is really good, and I’m excited to find out if Milwaukee has hit on a solution in the past two days, or if we’ll see the Suns take a 2-0 series lead when these Finals shift to Wisconsin. Follow along to tonight’s action in the comments and let’s find out together.