A best-of-three series is what the NBA Finals have become. Phoenix won both games at home and Milwaukee won both games at home. The series now shifts back to the desert for Game 5 on Saturday night, as we’ll have two days off between games once again.
The Suns are -4, a modest move up from 3.5 for the books that opened there or a starting point for those that did not. So far, we’ve seen home teams dominate the series with the long travel, but there is so much more to unpack than just home court advantage. Along with the -4 number at Bovada Sportsbook, we’ve got a total of 218 on the betting board.
The Milwaukee Bucks look like a different team all of the sudden. While Jrue Holiday was building a nice, 1950s brick bungalow on the rim in Game 4, Khris Middleton was coming alive. Like Undertaker coming out of the coffin alive. The single most important secondary scorer in the series had 40 points on 15-of-33 shooting in Wednesday’s game to propel the Bucks to a 109-103 victory.
Middleton, who had struggled with his shot throughout most of the postseason, was 12-of-25 inside the arc and didn’t settle for jacking up threes. Between his Game 4 showing and his quality effort in Game 3 with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting, Middleton is up to 43% in the series and over 36% on threes.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has had a championship-level series, averaging 32.3 points and 14 rebounds per game while dealing with a knee that is less than 100%. The Greek Freak has 15 offensive rebounds. The Suns have 28 for the series. Giannis has also made 35 of 55 free throws to take advantage of his trips to the line. That isn’t a great percentage, but it’s better than what we saw in the other rounds.
The Bucks had five turnovers in Game 4. Three belonged to Giannis. The Suns had 17 turnovers. The extra possessions that Milwaukee has been able to pick up by taking better care of the basketball and by Windexing the offensive glass have been huge in the last two games.
As a result, the series is now tied and the Bucks are the team playing free and easy.
The Suns are in the pressure cooker right now. Chris Paul seems hurt again and even a monster effort from Devin Booker in Game 4 was not enough to give the Suns a chance at the title in Game 5. Booker had 42 points on 17-of-28 shooting, but his help disappeared. The rest of the Suns shot 23-of-50 from the floor. That doesn’t sound that bad until you realize that it was the bench that went 9-of-14.
Jae Crowder was 3-of-10. Deandre Ayton was 3-of-9. Paul was 5-of-13. Mikal Bridges was 3-of-4, but was barely used in the game. It became the Devin Booker Show because it had to be. The Suns were able to get a 2-0 lead in the series because of their unselfish play and contributions from all over the roster. Either the Bucks have adjusted or the Suns have gotten away from what worked.
The fact that Phoenix only lost by six with a free throw disparity and 12 more turnovers than the opposition could be viewed as a positive. As long as the Suns take better care of the basketball and stay out of foul trouble, they could be in good shape.
On the other hand, Paul does not look healthy. After a great Game 1, Paul has struggled over the last three games. He had six turnovers in Game 2 and has committed 17 turnovers in the series. The Suns now have 52 turnovers in the series to just 36 for the Bucks, with all of that disparity coming in the last two games.
The Suns need to find a way to be better and more responsible with the rock.
Bucks vs. Suns Free Pick
The Suns seem to need some home cooking to get back on track. The Bucks seem to have a lot more confidence now, even with a lackluster three-point performance in Game 4. With a couple of unders in Milwaukee, the total on the series has ticked down a couple of points. We saw the Suns perform much better at home offensively and I would expect the same again here. That leads me to look at the over for Game 5.