The Milwaukee Bucks vaulted themselves back into this Finals with the Phoenix Suns through a relatively commanding 120-100 victory. It’ll be up to them whether they want to follow through with that promise and fully make this a series, setting up a tension-filled Game Five.
Where We’re At
It’s been all Giannis Antetokounmpo, all the time after his historic Game Two performance. His back-to-back 40-point, 10-rebound accomplishment was matched only by Shaq in terms of the last 25 years of Finals, and it was fueled by sheer determination and strength beneath the bucket. All of his makes came within five feet of the basket and he delivered at the free throw line too with 13-17. Along the way, he got some third quarter assistance from Jrue Holiday, whose 5-10 three-point shooting led to 21 points and nine assists — just enough to help Milwaukee get over the hump. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for a Khris Middleton breakout game, who stemmed any Phoenix tide with 15 first half points, but only three in the second half to go with some patient playmaking. One of the biggest defensive factors was holding the Suns to just three corner triples after allowing 17 in the second game — they need to keep that figure low. On the bench front, the Bucks are hoping the home court can help propel Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton to another decent showing in hopes of heading back to Phoenix tied 2-2.
Meanwhile, the storyline for the Suns after Game Three was all about DeAndre Ayton. His 24 minutes were a product of foul trouble — a rarity in the Playoffs thus far for the young big. Without him, the Suns had no answer for Giannis on the frontline despite a frisky few minutes of smallball. Monty Williams and company probably spent the last few days dialing up how they’re going to slow Milwaukee’s superstar, but some of their improvements likely come from obvious sources — fewer turnovers, keeping Milwaukee off the glass, Devin Booker shooting better than 3-14. The first two are easier said than done though, as the Bucks have been the Playoff’s finest OREB% team and Jrue Holiday’s ratcheted up pressure has forced sure-handed Chris Paul into 10 turnovers the last two contests. This young Phoenix team hasn’t looked rattled this entire Playoffs, we’ll see how they respond on Milwaukee’s home court after a shaky Sunday showing.
As for injuries, the only folks out are the usual long-term dudes, Donte DiVincenzo and Dario Saric.
Player to Watch
I’m kinda curious to see whether Mikal Bridges can find any more offensive involvement. After his 27-point outburst in Game Two, he mustered only four points (and just four shots) in Fiserv Forum the following game. Jae Crowder picked up the slack with a 6-7 contest, but Bridges has had several strong defensive showings against Khris Middleton already. Maybe that defensive toll will show as the series goes on, or perhaps this was simply the product of a road game coupled with the Bucks staying home on him in the corners.
Game Four: Against Phoenix, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)
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