The Milwaukee Bucks were down (0-2) when they left “The Valley of the Sun” last Thursday.
Fast forward six days and after two gritty and resilient performances later and they’re now headed back to Phoenix tied (2–2).
The quest for the Larry O’Brien trophy is now the best-of-three, with two of those games to be played on the Suns home floor if necessary
This series has many underlying stories and connections: from these two teams having to flip a coin in 1969 to see who’d have the right to draft Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Milwaukee. winning one NBA title (1971) with Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, to the Suns never winning one in the franchise’s 53-year history.
Now it comes down to which team can win two of the next three games.
That’s a hard one to figure out considering the home team has won each of the first four games thus far.
The midrange clinic displayed by Devin Booker who went for 42 points on 17-of 28 shooting following his awful Game 3 (10-points) was nothing short of sensational.
But he was matched by Bucks star Khris Middleton who went for 40 himself.
These two put on a shotmaking display from all over the court but they do their best work in the area of the floor which has become a lost art in the NBA.
“The Midrange Assassins” — both having spent time with the late-great Kobe Bryant in the off-season — were in a zone.
Booker used to work out with Kobe exclusively and you can definitely see it.
The major difference from Game 1 to now seems to be the switch of putting All-NBA defender Jrue Holiday on Chris Paul. The bigger snd stronger Holiday’s really bothered CP3 by picking him up at halfcourt and being really handsy and physical with him.
It looks to be wearing on Paul, whose shot has deteriorated somewhat over the course of the rigorous playoffs. His sure – handedness has been a problem as well. CP3 is uncharacteristically turning the ball over at a higher clip.
The Bucks are bigger and stronger. And now that they’ve figured out what they want their offensive identity to be, the Suns don’t have the bodies upfront to really stop Greek Freak from dominating around the rim.
Losing Dario Saric to the torn ACL looks much bigger than it did earlier in the series. Ayton can’t afford to get into foul trouble being the only big for the Suns.
This Finals was billed as Chris Paul vs Giannis Antetokounmpo, and thus far “The Greek Freak” has looked the part after looking as if he wouldn’t be available this series.
He’s dominated on both ends and his block on an attempted lob to Ayton with the game hanging in the balance is the biggest play of the series thus far.
“Giannis had his first moment.”
Despite some questionable calls both ways and some blown opportunities for challenges that could’ve stymied momentum on both sides here we are.
Pressure now shifts solely to the Suns who must get a win back in Phoenix. No way they extend the series to a Game 7 if they lose Game 5 at home.
The question is will the Bucks stay physical and focused on great inside play with timely outside looks or resort back to their bad habits and lackadaisical ways that cost them games 1 and 2 in “The Valley of the Sun.”