Bucks (9PM ET ABC) – My first foray into the NBA Finals was a good one as Milwaukee hammers Phoenix 120-100 to cover the number easily in Game 3. Prior to Game 3 I said I still liked Milwaukee to win this series and I’m going to come right back and lay the small number again when the Bucks battle the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the NBA Finals at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Game 3 went exactly as I said it would in the respect Milwaukee made all the right adjustments and Phoenix shot the ball terrible from the field. I suppose one could chalk that up to an off night for the Suns but I think that had more to do with the Bucks increased intensity on defense and the fact the Suns simply shoot it worse on the road than they do in Phoenix. There’s an old saying in the NBA that these series don’t truly start until someone wins on the road, that has yet to happen yet in this NBA Finals and I don’t think it’s happening here. Milwaukee was 26-10 at home during the regular season and moves to 8-1 at the Fiserv Forum after their 20 point Game 3 blowout win. Milwaukee has destroyed Phoenix on points in the paint all series and had the Suns not went off for 20 three pointers I think the Bucks would be the team ahead in this series right now. There is no disputing the fact Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player on the floor right now for either team, I don’t think Phoenix can stop him and I think Giannis gives another massive effort and leads Milwaukee to a series tying win here.
I think it’s safe to say Chris Paul and Devin Booker will both be better than they were in Game 3 (they were both awful) but I still think the Suns are relying too heavily on the outside shot to win in Milwaukee. As I said prior to Game 3, Milwaukee CAN defend and once they figured out how to guard Booker the Phoenix offense got a lot less effective. Milwaukee is dominating in the paint and on the glass in this series which means it’s probably going to take a huge shooting performance for Phoenix to win and that’s just less likely to happen on the road. In addition to turning up the intensity on defense the Bucks have also gotten more aggressive on offense and it’s become quite obvious that Milwaukee can use their athleticism and size to get to the rim. Giannis should continue to have Deandre Ayton in foul trouble and Jrue Holiday is also more physical than anyone on Phoenix has an answer for. Khris Middleton still didn’t do much in Game 3 so he’s overdue to break out and I think if he puts up one of the 30 point efforts he’s capable of we see Milwaukee run away in Game 4 again and send this series back to the desert tied 2-2.
Another thing I’ve talked about all playoffs is the superior depth on this Milwaukee Bucks team. I’ve been critical of Mike Budenholzer at times for playing too many guys but it’s really paid off as we go deeper into the playoffs as Milwaukee has been the deeper and less fatigued team in their past two series. Milwaukee showed they could win games without Giannis which means other guys on this Bucks team know they can step up and win if needed. Now Giannis is back and not only is he back but he’s back to peak form putting up 40+ the past two games. If Giannis is going to play to potential there’s just no way Phoenix is the better team here. The equalizer for Phoenix is their ability to knock down the three but it’s far more difficult to win that way on the road and I think a rebounding edge and a big advantage in paint scoring gets it done for Milwaukee by margin again here.
I’ve had Milwaukee as the best team in the Eastern Conference all playoffs and every time the Bucks have needed a win in this playoffs they have shown up with a big effort. Milwaukee simply can’t afford to go back to Phoenix down 3-1 so I think this is another spot where Milwaukee needs a huge performance and pulls through. Milwaukee has been lights out on their home floor winning eight of nine in the playoffs and most of those have been blowout wins. For as good as Phoenix is I still think they had a watered down road to get to this point and had Lebron James and/or Kawhi Leonard not been hurt this Suns team probably doesn’t make it to the finals. Milwaukee is rounding into form at the right time, Giannis is by far the best player on the floor here and I’ll back the Bucks again to hold serve at home and cover the small number in the process. Play on Bucks -4 for 4 units
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