NBA Finals 2021: Can the Milwaukee Bucks return to this series?

The Milwaukee Bucks are down 2-0 once again this postseason, but can the Bucks find a way to come back against the Phoenix Suns like they did against the Brooklyn Nets?

The dynamic duo formed by Devin Booker Y Chris paul he’s led the Suns for the first two games, and if they can figure out how to win two more, one of them will likely end up as the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals.

For the Bucks, the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo It no longer appears to be a problem, as the former two-time MVP has played exceptionally well at the start of the series. However, other team members like Khris middleton Y Jrue Holiday will they step forward on the offensive?

Our experts analyze what has impressed them the most, the ways each team can win Game 3 (8pm ET Sunday) and predict how long the series will last.

1. What impressed the most about the Suns’ 2-0 lead?

Tim Bontemps: The different ways Phoenix has been able to win. In Game 1, the Suns had a dominant performance of Deandre ayton, paraded to the free throw line and outscored the Bucks on fast break points. In Game 2, Ayton was not a factor, they barely got to the line and did not run, but they made 20 of 40 triples, they got 27 points of Mikal bridges and they made key and timely shots throughout the game. They are a complete team that plays a fun style.

Kevin Pelton: The effectiveness from the Phoenix free line. This is not a surprise, given that the Suns finished second in the NBA (behind the Clippers this season) by making 83% of their free throws during the regular season, but no team has shot that well in the first two games. from the Finals as Phoenix (37 of 40, 92.5%). Particularly in Game 1, when the Suns came to the line 26 times and missed only once.

Jorge Sedano: His poise. Considering this team has virtually no playoff experience other than Chris Paul and Jae crowder. It’s amazing to see how they responded in the first two games by taking full control of the series from the start.

Royce Young: The diversity of the game. The Suns are far from being the show of Chris Paul or Devin Booker, and they have shown how balanced they can be throughout the postseason. The ball moves, the offense is flowing and the quality of the shot is always good. Everyone talks about adjustments for the Bucks, but the Suns are a difficult team to adapt to because they can beat him in another way.

Ohm Youngmisuk: Phoenix’s coolness under pressure and his ability to adapt to whatever Milwaukee tries has been impressive. Rather than being overwhelmed by his inexperience in Finals, it looks like Booker has been here before. And when Jrue Holiday tried to stop Chris Paul in Game 2, Booker and Mikal Bridges stepped forward. Confidence among the Suns continues to grow, as evidenced by their possession of double-digit passes at the end of the first half of Game 2.

2. Who has been the most important player in the series so far?

Youngmisuk: Chris Paul. While Booker was amazing in Game 2, Paul has a way of calming down the Suns every time Milwaukee makes a run and getting an easy basket when they need it, whether it’s hitting a long distance shot or finding Deandre Ayton inside. As Paul demonstrated in Game 1, he can take over a second half when needed, but also be the general on the court and make his teammates look better.

Bontemps: Jrue Holiday. It may be surprising to see this response come from the team with a 2-0 series loss, but Holiday hasn’t been good enough offensively. He just can’t go 11 of 35 in the first two games, with 7 of 28 in the first six quarters. Yes, their defense in Game 2 was excellent, but for Milwaukee to win this series, they need both Holiday and Khris Middleton to team up with Giannis Antetokounmpo to create a consistent offense for the Bucks.

Pelton: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Both Phoenix guards have been amazing, and it’s a tough question which one was more important, but Giannis’s dominant second half was the main reason the Bucks were competitive in Game 2. The fact that Milwaukee actually outplayed the Suns with Antetokounmpo on the court is remarkable.

Sedano: It’s difficult, because Chris Paul is truly the engine of the Suns. However, I will go to Devin Booker for a hair in this race. Every time the Suns have needed a big shot, Booker has been there to say present.

Young: The playoffs, and especially the Finals, make it difficult to produce good possessions as defenses advance and exploration and preparation go to another level. But CP3 is the one-man counterattack, generating an efficient, quality offense on almost every trip. He’s shown an extra gear of assertiveness while sniffing out a championship, and with his dazzling midrange, the Bucks don’t have a great fit available.

3. The Bucks will win Game 3 if …

Young: Khris Middleton plays like he’s the best player on the Bucks for one night. The formula for Milwaukee isn’t complicated, with Giannis taking over the games for the first 42 minutes or so, dominating the paint and transitioning. But they desperately need Middleton’s support, especially at crucial moments, with his ability to make one-on-one shots. The Bucks have dealt with their support group inconsistency in the postseason, but they’ve come this far because they’ve done enough. Middleton needs to lead that charge in Game 3.

Bontemps: the quality of the shots equals the performance on the court. Game 2 was reminiscent of the second round Clippers-Mavericks series, a game the Mavs won because they outperformed what they should have done from a shooting perspective. That’s exactly what Phoenix did last Thursday, and with the series switching to Milwaukee, some of the shots that hit the Suns at home, and that the Bucks missed on the road, will surely go the other way and in favor of the team. home.



Sebastián Martínez Christensen shares the keys to the Bucks’ 118-108 loss to the Suns in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Youngmisuk: Holiday and Khris Middleton outplay the Suns’ backcourt. Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated by attacking the Suns in the paint. In the Western Conference finals, Paul george showed that the Suns can be vulnerable when a star drives and attacks. Those impulses helped not only open up George’s ability to take shots from the outside, but he also managed to engage his teammates. Antetokounmpo isn’t a perimeter threat like George, and his teammates failed to score their 3s in Game 2.

Pelton: The 3-point difference between the two teams is close to what it was in Game 1, when Milwaukee was plus-minus 5 pts from beyond the arc. The Bucks still lost that game because they were unusually poor in terms of caring for the ball and avoiding fouls. If Milwaukee shoots well again, I don’t expect it to happen again.

Sedano: If Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday play up to their abilities, Middleton specifically. This postseason, when Middleton has scored 19 points or more, the Bucks are 10-2. When he scores less, they are 2-5.

4. The Suns will win Game 3 if …

Sedano: Deandre Ayton remains untested regularly at defensive end. The Bucks need to put pressure on Ayton and the rim, especially when considering how thin Phoenix is ​​up front with the knee injury that ended the series a Dario Saric.

Youngmisuk: Devin Booker and Chris Paul dominate again. So far, in the first two games, the duo have combined for 59 and 54 points, respectively. In Game 2, they fired a 10-for-17 combo from behind the arc. And it’s not just about the shot taking, but the timeliness in which they are taking their shots. Milwaukee has to find a way to make it more uncomfortable for those two.

Young: Keep doing jumpers. In Game 2, Phoenix scored 84 points on distance shots, taking the idea that Milwaukee can live with mid-range pull-ups and throwing it in their face. The Suns scored 47 more points than the Bucks on these types of shots in Game 2, the biggest gap in a game this postseason. If the Suns are going to keep dropping them, it’s hard to see where Milwaukee has an answer.

Bontemps: Booker and / or Paul have an iconic performance. There is little doubt that the Bucks will bring him in in Game 3, knowing that his season will practically end with a loss. The only way the Suns will get over that is if one of their leaders steps up and dominates. There is no doubt that they are capable of doing it; just look at how Booker played Los Angeles in Game 6 in the first round to eliminate the Lakers and how Paul dominated the Clippers in Game 6 of the Western finals. This is likely to require similar performance.

Pelton: Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton continue to struggle with their pitches. In the playoffs, Milwaukee’s performance has reflected the team’s supporting stars more than Giannis. The Bucks are 11-2 when Holiday and Middleton combine for game scores of at least 25, and they are 1-5 when they fall short of that mark, including the first two games of these NBA Finals.

5. True or false: The series will have its Game 6

Pelton: More true than false. The underlying stats suggest a closer series than what we’ve seen on the court thus far. Add in the value provided by the Bucks when they return home and the odds are good that they will win at least two of the next three games.

Sedano: Fake. I think the Bucks will win Game 3. However, the Suns look like the best team right now. I mentioned his poise earlier. I forgot to mention his flawless execution. Meanwhile, Milwaukee has been pretty inconsistent overall. I don’t see that changing in the big picture for this series.

Young: True. The Bucks have shown the ability to bounce back on a series. Drawing conclusions after two games is premature, and Giannis looked fantastic in Game 2. The Bucks haven’t played well, and they can find some optimism in Holiday and Middleton showing up in at least a couple of games, especially at home.

Youngmisuk: True. This isn’t the first time that Milwaukee seems to have been outclassed in the first two games of a series. The Bucks trailed 2-0 and were eliminated by 39 in Game 2 to Brooklyn in the second round. But they saved their season with their defense, holding the Nets to 83 points in Game 3 and 96 in the fourth to turn the series around. Milwaukee has to play like an elite defensive team, limit its breakdowns and defend as if its season was on the line.

Bontemps: True. Assuming this series ended after the Suns won a couple of games at home, especially their second win with 20 unsustainable 3-pointers, is shortsighted. That is not disrespectful to Phoenix, an excellent team that may very well win this title, but I hope this series returns to Milwaukee for a Game 6.