Image licensed from USA Today Sports
The Bucks host the Suns Wednesday night as they look to even the series at two games each.
The Suns defended their home field with consecutive double-digit victories in Phoenix, and the Bucks responded with a 20-point blowout victory in Game 3 in Milwaukee.
The Suns reduced the deficit to just four points in the third quarter, but Jrue Holiday hit two 3s in the next minute and the Bucks never looked back.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 41 points and 12 rebounds, but can the Bucks get so hot in Game 4 on Wednesday?
Antetokounmpo has been incredible this series, but can he lead the Bucks to another home win in a row Wednesday night?
Can the sun bounce back?
If the Suns win and cover as road underdogs, they need Paul and Booker to score and distribute effectively, while Deandre Ayton plays at a high level at both ends of the field. Dario Saric suffered a torn ACL in Game 1 and will miss the rest of the season.
I thought Devin Booker settled in too often today. Dislike this shot, for example, when Ayton is going to have a mismatch inside. Just let it develop and resort to a pull-up jumper late on the watch if necessary pic.twitter.com/sOuOZqiGBA
– Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) July 12, 2021
If the Suns ‘offensive hopes to take to where they left off in Phoenix, they must continue to be one step ahead of the Bucks’ defense with excellent execution. The Suns were consistently ready for the Bucks’ defensive coverage in the first two games and had counter-attacks ready to attack them. The Suns’ offense struggled in Game 3 as Ayton got into big trouble in the first half and Booker had an off-night as he made just one of seven tries and scored 10 points in total on 14 shots.
Without DiVincenzo available, the Bucks’ defense will always have at least one player that Paul or Booker can attack, and they must continue to score effectively. Booker must bounce back in game 4 and take smart shots. Jrue Holiday has kept Booker one of 12 from the field as he guarded him this series, and the Suns should try to get Booker to look at other defenders as much as possible.
Paul and Booker’s decision-making will be key in Game 4, and the Suns must limit their turnover to keep the bucks out of transition. The Suns shot only 29% on three in Game 3, and they will need Paul and Booker to get better shots in Game 4 if they hope to return home with a chance to close the bucks. Jae Crowder had a huge Game 3 as he joined six of seven threes and scored 18 points – the second most on the team in Game 3.
When Booker and Paul create benefits, wingers like Mikal Bridges, Crowder and Cameron Johnson need to make shots effectively. Bridges showed off his deep bag in Game 2 as he scored from all three levels, and his ability to not only make open shots but also move and find the weak spots in defense has been impressive year-round. Bridges should bounce back after a quiet Game 3, where he scored only four points and did not make a three.
Cameron Payne will also play a key role as a scorer from the bench, who can also make shots from the ball. The Suns need Bridges, Torrey Craig, Crowder and Johnson to step up with Ayton inside as they try to make up for their lack of a reliable backup center after Saric’s injury.
Antetokounmpo dominated Game 3 as he went a perfect 13 for 13 at the edge and the suns needed more resistance inside. Ayton will play a key role defensively in guarding Antetokounmpo and staying out of error. The Suns should try to step on water when Ayton is resting while continuing to step up and play for about 40 minutes.
Can the goats even the series?
If the bucks win and cover as home favorites, they will need Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to score both effectively and often alongside Antetokounmpo. Donte DiVincenzo (foot) stays out the rest of the post season.
Antetokounmpo dominated in game 2, and as he scored at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in each match, he needed to remain aggressive despite fights from the fault line, limit his attempts at bouncing shots and put pressure on the rim as much as possible . If he can get Deandre Ayton in trouble again like he did in Game 3, the Bucks will be in a good place.
After Antetokounmpo went out in the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, Holiday screwed up his game as he was much more aggressive offensively as he averaged 26 points and 11 assists. Holiday used his wide frame to overpower smaller defenders and get to the basket while utilizing the space Antetokounmpo would normally command.
He needs to be aggressive, keep getting downhill as much as possible to either get to the bucket or create quality looks for teammates. He also needs a couple of threes to fall, as he has only shot 30.6% on threes in the off-season, and any distance assistance he can provide to Antetokounmpo will be important. Holiday had a huge Game 3 as he scored 21 points on just 14 shots as he made five of 10 threes and if he could just as well score on Wednesday, the bucks would have to win Game 4.
Bucks Frequencies for driving to the basket in case of offense:
Game 1: 41%
Games 2 & 3: 47%
And more importantly, these images were far lighter and higher quality of appearance:
Game 1: 1.35 expected UP
Game 2 & 3: 1.43 expected PPP https://t.co/nmiBmpStHB
– ShotQuality (@Shot_Quality) July 13, 2021
Middleton will play the most important role for the Bucks as he is the only true scorer on three levels on the team. He must score effectively for the Bucks to win or cover, and if this is a close game down the stretch, he will have to shut the game out with his elite-stricken shot. Like Holiday, he only took 14 shots in Game 3, but was effective as he scored 18 points and joined three of seven three-pointers.
Brook Lopez will play a key role anchoring the Bucks’ drop defense, and he will keep Paul and Booker from both getting to the rim and their go-to elbow jumps. The Bucks generally did a much better job of defending the Suns in Game 3 with better auxiliary defense and less overtime as they limited the number of open three-point attempts for the Suns. The Bucks need some shooting regression to go their way in Game 4 as the Suns’ shooters regress on the road while the Bucks continue to play quality defense.
Perimeter shooters like PJ Tucker, Bryn Forbes, Bobby Portis, Jeff Teague and Pat Connaughton are also set to rise. The Suns are one of the elite shooting teams in the NBA, and the Bucks’ three-point shooter must lift their game at home. Portis and Tucker must burn the glass and create a second chance. Forbes in particular need to shoot effectively to make up for its conspicuous defensive shortcomings.
- The Bucks are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 home games.
- The Bucks are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 home games against a team with a winning weather record.
- The Bucks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
- The Bucks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games as a favorite.
- Suns are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 matches played in 2