Publish Date: 07/05/2021
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
Nobody picked this final at the start of the season. But this should be a great final between two resilient teams. The Suns survived not having Chris Paul at the start of the Western Conference Finals, and the Bucks won two straight without Giannis to advance to the Finals. New blood is the order for the day as the Bucks last won a Title in 1971, and the Suns have never won it all. So let’s take a look at this unexpected matchup.
How will the Bucks defend the Suns?
In this series, there are four premier offensive players: Phoenix’s backcourt of Devin Booker and Chris Paul and the Bucks’ wing pair of Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. That makes Holidbe the most important player in this series because he could match up against either of the Suns’ premier scorers. However, holiday may be the best perimeter defensive player in the NBA. I look for Holiday to spend time guarding Paul and Booker, but I think he will be on Paul most of the time, which leaves Khris Middleton guarding Devin Booker. Now Suns fans may like that matchup, but Middleton is an underrated defender, and while he won’t shut down Booker, he may be able to slow him down some. What that means is Booker is going to be forced to hit difficult shots, and if he does, the Suns are going to be tough to beat.
The other two spots should be Antetokounmpo on Crowder and Brook Lopez defending Deandre Ayton. This is, of course, if Giannis plays in this series; if he does, you have to believe that the Suns will attack him to test his knee. Lopez on Ayton, the difference between these two will be Lopez’s ability to spread the floor.
Maybe the best and most interesting matchup to watch in this series will be Middleton vs. Bridges, Middleton is flat-out one of the best scorers in basketball, but Bridges has the length and agility to keep up with Middleton make life hard on him. Of course, the Suns could also matchup Crowder on Middleton as they did that from time to time in the previous two matchups in the regular season. Holiday, a skilled and efficient scorer over his career, posted 25 and 27 points in the Bucks’ two games without Antetokounmpo. Twenty-nine of those points came either in the paint or at the foul line.
The regular-season games played by these two teams were both classics. Holiday vs. Paul may be the matchup that decides this series. If I were the Bucks, I would try to play inside-out with Lopez in the post, but I don’t think that’s how the Bucks will attack. These teams are evenly matched, and in the end, I think this will be a long, hard-fought series by the two best defensive teams in the NBA. I like the Bucks in 7!