Milwaukee Bucks: NBA Finals Preview and Prediction

Feb 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) makes a shot against Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the second half at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) makes a shot against Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the second half at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

After winning game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, the Milwaukee Bucks have returned to the NBA Finals for the first time in 47 years. They will look to win their first championship since 1971. The Bucks will match up against the Phoenix Suns, who return to the Finals for the first time since 1993 and seek their first-ever NBA championship.

For the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, who are both in unfamiliar territory with this level of success, how do they match up against each other?

Let’s dive in.

Team Health

In what has been a recurring theme for teams this playoffs, both teams have dealt with injuries. For the Suns, star Devin Booker broke his nose in three places during game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Although it did not force Booker to miss time, it clearly affected his play, as Booker would go on to shoot about 35% from the field in games three through six (32/91). Booker struggled with wearing his protective mask and took it off at some points as it was bothering him so much. It is not clear whether or not Booker will still be wearing a protective mask, but the injury could still affect the Suns’ star.

On the Bucks side, the injuries are more severe. Donte DiVincenzo is out for the Finals after suffering a tendon injury to his left foot in the first round against Miami. DiVincenzo would have played a large role in the defensive scheme against Phoenix. Giannis Antetokounmpo is also listed on the injury report as day-to-day after he suffered a hyperextended left knee in the Eastern Conference Finals. It is not clear if Antetokounmpo will play in game 1, but it is expected that he will play at some point during the series. The question will be whether he can play at a high level of effectiveness.

Defensive Matchups

How the Milwaukee Bucks attempt to guard the Suns and vice versa will be the headline of the series. The Bucks and Suns are #1 and 2 in defensive rating for the playoffs, so both teams have defensive prowess to make things difficult for each other. Matchups such as Jrue Holiday guarding Chris Paul will be critical. If Holiday can pressure Paul and give him little space, it will be harder for Paul to facilitate the offense and give the Bucks an opportunity to take advantage.

The most important defensive matchup for the Bucks will be who guards Devin Booker. If DiVincenzo was playing, he would most likely get the assignment on Paul, and Holiday would take Booker. However, since he is out, that assignment most likely goes to Khris Middleton. Middleton is a capable defender, but needing to contain one of the best offensive superstars in the game over the course of a series will be hard work, especially when he is also needed to create so much of the Bucks offense.

Stopping the Pick and Roll

In a similar fashion to the Hawks, the Suns also run a ton of plays out of the pick and roll. In fact, 24% of their possessions result in a pick and roll. This makes sense given their personnel. Paul is a fantastic orchestrator of the offense and limits turnovers, while Deandre Ayton makes smart runs to the hoop and has the skill and touch to effectively finish around the basket.

How will the Bucks stop the Suns in the pick and roll? Do they try and let Holiday fight through the screen and give Paul the midrange shot or do they switch Lopez onto Paul and hope for the best? The Bucks will hopefully defend the pick and roll like they did with Trae Young and the Hawks in game 2.

On the screen, have Holiday fight through the best he can and have Brook Lopez ready and waiting to prevent the midrange floater. Then have a weak side defender drop into the paint to prevent the lob to Ayton. Of course, the Suns will adapt to whatever defensive scheme the Bucks bring, and much of the series will depend upon how well the Bucks make their own adjustments.

Series Prediction

With both teams having little experience this deep in the playoffs, it makes this type of series even more unpredictable. I believe the Milwaukee Bucks do have a decent chance at winning this series if both Holiday and Middleton continue to play at the level they have played at over these last couple of games.

Next. 5 Reasons Why the Bucks Can Beat the Suns in the Finals. dark

However, the Suns have been firing on all cylinders during the playoffs and have been the most consistent team from the regular season to the playoffs. That combined with the uncertainty of Antetokounmpo’s health leads me to predict the Suns will win in 6 games.

What do you think of the matchup? Who wins the series?