Bucks vs Suns
How the heck did we get here? Credit to the Milwaukee Bucks for making sure everyone writes them off after Game 1 or 2 of every playoff series, only to storm back with a vengeance. With a few exceptions, playoff series generally swing with home-court advantage, but it is still wild how poorly the Bucks have played early on in playoff series’ this year. They are 3-5 in Games 1 & 2 of this postseason, and are now 12-2 in all other games. That is bananas.
So, while it would be nice if the Bucks were a little better at making in-game adjustments or adjusting a bit quicker, once they make their big adjustments, they are dominating the opposition. Now, Milwaukee has a chance to make Brandon Jennings a prophet, and close out the Phoenix Suns in Game 6.
Since 2003, the only teams to win four straight in the conference finals or finals after going down 0-2:— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) July 20, 2021
In this series, the big adjustment they’ve made on the defensive end has been two-fold. They’ve stuck Jrue Holiday onto Chris Paul, which, combined with an apparent hand injury, has hampered the Point God throughout the remainder of the series. This has led to Devin Booker having the ball in his hands much, much more, which has generally resulted in Booker displaying elite shot-making in isolation situations.
It’s hard to argue that the Bucks have played bad defense on Booker, in fact I’d argue the opposite. Booker is really, really good, so sometimes you have to live with him taking and making a lot of tough shots, and he has done that in this series. What the Bucks have stopped doing, though, is over-committing in help the way they did in Games 1 & 2. They were giving the Suns and Booker everything in those games, and have now stopped over-helping and have effectively taken away Phoenix’s drive-and-kick game.
Game 1: 16— Anchorage Man (@SethPartnow) July 18, 2021
Game 2: 12
Game 3: 5
Game 4: 5
Game 5: 4 https://t.co/ZNGFBkBbhi
This isn’t really a criticism of Booker. This is just what the Bucks are giving him. If Monty Williams could find a way to get him in more actions that free his teammates up too, that would be helpful, but if the Suns just want to let Booker go one-on-one, the Bucks will probably live with that given how unstoppable Phoenix is once they get a defense into rotation.
The Bucks are going to force Booker to play one-on-one, while their long help defenders take away his passing lanes and Giannis Antetokounmpo waits for Booker at the rim. That’s a pretty strong defensive alignment as long as the primary defender isn’t a complete turnstile.
That’s the part of the series that’s getting the most attention, because what we naturally do is pick at the best players on whichever team is losing, but the Bucks offense has really been what’s swung this series.
Khris Middleton’s shot-making has always been his best trait, but he’s been otherworldly in that regard given the stakes, and Jrue Holiday joined the party on that end in Game 5. Of course, Giannis has been marvelous in his own right.
All else being equal, the game, series, and season will come down to whether or not the Suns can continue to draw closer in the possession game. They have been, are, and will likely continue to be a more efficient shooting team than the Buck. They have better shooters and scorers.
Milwaukee has completely negated this by hammering the Suns on the offensive glass, getting more free-throw attempts, and taking better care of the basketball. It seems pretty unlikely that Phoenix will draw near in free-throw attempts given the play-style of each team, but they absolutely must take better care of the ball (they did in Game 5) and find a way to keep the Bucks off of the offensive glass. They’re just generating so many extra possessions, and high-quality possessions at that in transition and on put-backs/kick-outs.
That’s the game. Can the Bucks generate enough easy offense to make up for their average half-court offense? Can Phoenix find a way to make Devin Booker more of a moving target, without all eyes staring at him? They’ve lived on a ridiculously difficult shot diet as of late, how long can that sustain?
I feel more confident in the Bucks and Giannis continuing to hammer the glass and the free-throw line. Brandon Jennings word becomes gospel tonight. Bucks win 112-107, Bucks in 6.