A maximum of seven games is all we have left for the 2021 NBA season. What started as a weird and condensed regular season has now come down to the final two teams, as the Phoenix Suns host the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
The Suns are -6 at BetOnline Sportsbook with a total of 217.5 in this very important first game, as the winner will be three wins away from a championship and the loser will need to win four out of six against a very challenging foe.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is officially listed as doubtful for today’s action, as he looks to recover from what was a very scary-looking knee injury late in the series against the Atlanta Hawks. His Milwaukee Bucks were able to rebound and win the two games necessary to advance, but not getting to the Finals at full strength is a really disappointing blow for a team that scored the most points during the regular season.
If Giannis can’t go, the Bucks will look to do what they did in Game 5 and Game 6 of their series against the Hawks and that is to win without their superstar forward. The Suns are clearly a better team than the Hawks, though, and so the task is a bit tougher this time around.
It will take a better offensive performance than what the Bucks have put forth throughout most of the playoffs. Milwaukee has scored more points per game than the Suns, but has also had more turnovers pergame. The Bucks are also shooting just 31.1% on three-point attempts. Phoenix has a stingy interior defense and has also defended well on the perimeter.
The Bucks have shot 46% from the field as a whole, but most of those numbers have had Giannis as a focal point of the offense. That is not likely to be the case here, so we’ll need to see better three-point shooting from guys like Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to make up for the likely loss of Giannis.
Injuries have played a big role in the NBA Playoffs. The Bucks got fortunate with injuries to James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Trae Young’s injury also leveled the playing field, as he missed Game 5 and was hobbled in Game 6. The injury luck is not something that the Suns will apologize for in these playoffs either.
Phoenix ran into a hobbled Los Angeles team that missed Anthony Davis for some time in the series and LeBron was not right. The Nuggets had played without Jamal Murray for a long time, but he would have been a difference maker in the series. Then, against the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard was out with a torn ACL.
While it could still be a major narrative and a big factor in how well Phoenix has played in the postseason, those absences shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Suns were one of the West’s best all season long and a team that was plenty capable of making it here without those injuries, much like the Bucks with their respective fortunes.
Phoenix has played really unselfish basketball in these playoffs. Devin Booker has taken over when necessary, but it has really been a collective approach to winning games, as Deandre Ayton has been a highly efficient scorer and Chris Paul has been both a scorer and a floor general. The Suns are shooting nearly 48% from the field and over 37% on threes.
Bucks vs. Suns Free Pick
Game 1 will be a good tone-setting game for the series. It will be interesting to see how the Suns play it, as they should feel like they can outscore the Bucks without Giannis, but running up and down the floor with pace is not necessarily their preferred style of play. That would seem to make betting the total a bit of a challenge.
Phoenix -6 is the play here. Even if Giannis can play, he’ll be less than 100%. Because he likely won’t, the Suns should be able to share the basketball and get a lot of uncontested looks, much like what they’ve done against other teams. Milwaukee is likely to have to fight harder for each and every basket.
Pick: Phoenix Suns -6