This 2021 NBA Finals series has been a doozy between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks. After losing the first two games of the series, Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Bucks are now just one win away from securing their first championship since 1971 after winning three in a row.
The Bucks got to this place because of their improved adjustments. They have utilized Antetokounmpo in a way where the Suns cannot seem to find an answer for him. Jrue Holiday and Kris Middleton have stepped up after Game 2 and have made important plays down the stretch.
The Suns have struggled with the size and athleticism of the Bucks in the past three games. They’ve now lost three in a row, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to give up just yet. As their leader Chris Paul said, they “can’t give up” now. Even if they don’t have an answer for Antetokounmpo, the Suns can still find a way to beat the Bucks. The last two games went right down to the wire and were up for grabs in the final moments.
Unfortunately for Paul and his troops, they now go back to Milwaukee, where the Bucks have only lost once in the playoffs this year. This could possibly be the last game for the Suns this season and potentially even Paul’s last realistic chance for a championship. Will the Suns prevail on the road and force a Game 7? Or will the Bucks be able to celebrate as the new NBA champions?
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Here are three predictions for Game 6 between the Bucks and Suns.
1. Holiday continues his excellent defense on Paul
Paul hasn’t been at his best for the past three games. It could be because of the wrist injury he’s dealing with, Holiday’s defense or both. Holiday has been fantastic on the defensive side all series. He orchestrated the biggest steal in Bucks franchise history late in Game 5, when he stripped Devin Booker in the clutch. That’s just one of the many big defensive plays he has made all series.
It also doesn’t help that Paul has turned the ball over a lot in this series. He finished Game 4 with five turnovers, including two vital ones in the fourth quarter. He only had one turnover in Game 5 but was a minus-6 and wasn’t able to control the game like he normally does, even with 21 points and 11 assists. The veteran also struggled on the defensive end, picking up 5 fouls. The Suns need more from Paul if they want to force a Game 7 back in The Valley.
2. Giannis gets more help from teammates than Booker
There’s a storyline ongoing that Khris Middleton and not Giannis Antetokounmpo is the “Batman” of the Bucks. I beg to differ. In basketball, each player (at least in the rotation) is as important as anyone because it’s a team sport. Giannis, Holiday and Middleton are all effective in different ways that only they can contribute for the team. That said, their offensive power has clearly been better than the Suns’ role players, with Pat Connaughton also playing a big role in Game 5 with 14 points off the bench.
In the past three games, there has been so little of Jae Crowder, Miles Bridges and even Deandre Ayton. They’ve been up and down and need to contribute more for their team. Booker has scored more than 40 points for two games in a row now, and it’s fair to question if he can still do it for Game 6 and maybe Game 7. Booker needs a bit more help, with the other Suns players needing to chip in more on both ends.
3. Bucks win first championship in 50 years
For as much as people want to see Paul get his first and potentially only ring, it’s hard to dismiss the Bucks’ impressive playoff run. They defeated the Miami Heat, the team that eliminated them last season, easily in four games. They got past an injury-riddled Nets team, but injuries have always been part of the game. They beat the Atlanta Hawks in six games despite Giannis’ injury.
Antetokounmpo has just been too good in this series, averaging 32.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists a game. Take note, The Greek Freak is doing this after suffering that knee injury just two weeks ago. He could potentially have one Finals MVP, one NBA championship, two MVPs and one DPOY by the age of 26. That’s just pretty damn impressive.
The Bucks smell blood, and they should capitalize on that on their home court Tuesday.
As for the Suns, well, they’ve been a pretty good road team as well, but they’re also facing the biggest adversity so far in their playoff run. It’s going to be up to them how they can bounce back from it.
Game 6 should be another thrilling one for the ages.