NBA Finals 2021 – Five big takeways from Phoenix Suns’ Game 2 win

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By now you’ve gotten in all probability heard in regards to the tattoo Devin Booker has on his arm, “Be Legendary,” which was impressed by the recommendation the late Kobe Bryant wrote on his footwear after a sport throughout his ultimate season.

Booker idolized Bryant. Wanted to study every part he might from him. Then he wished to be like him. Lots of gamers his age did.

But the one solution to credibly put himself into the identical sentence as a Hall of Famer like Bryant is to have much more video games like he did Thursday night time, when he scored 31 factors to steer the Phoenix Suns to a 118-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Phoenix leads one of the best-of-seven sequence, 2-0, and a really wholesome dialogue can start on whether or not Booker or his backcourt mate, Chris Paul, is the main contender for Finals MVP at this level.

Paul adopted up his elegant 32-level Game 1 with 23 factors and 10 assists in Game 2 regardless of the complete consideration of Milwaukee’s defensive stalwart, Jrue Holiday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who completed with 42 factors and 12 rebounds, had willed Milwaukee by way of a sluggish three quarters and was lastly getting some manufacturing out of function gamers. But every time the Bucks inched shut within the fourth, the Suns would discover a solution to push them again.

Booker did so by nailing seven of the Suns’ 20 3-tips on the night time, together with three straight throughout a 2 minute, 23 second stretch within the fourth quarter to stem a Bucks surge that had minimize the result in 90-84 with 9:41 to go. Paul would nail a 3 of his personal, together with discovering open shooters for clutch buckets, successfully placing the sport out of attain.

Booker and Paul seized the second, serving to Phoenix inch nearer to the last word prize.

— Ramona Shelburne


Giannis is again, however the place are his operating mates?

Though the Bucks made a strong push within the fourth quarter, the sport’s telling stat got here on the finish of the third: Giannis Antetokounmpo, 32 factors; the remainder of Milwaukee’s starters, 32 factors.

With the context of his terrifying damage within the Eastern Conference finals looming over every part he does, the best way Antetokounmpo has responded is the mark of a really nice participant. He is not 100% — however he nonetheless is identical matchup nightmare for any protection. Posting 42 factors in a Finals sport, on 15-for-22 capturing, plus 12 rebounds, is the type of factor an NBA legend does.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo turns into the primary participant with 20 factors or extra in a single NBA Finals quarter within the final 25 seasons.

His third quarter was one among spectacular pressure, charging on the Suns along with his trademark downhill sprints and dominant, overpowering paint play. His 20 third quarter factors are essentially the most since Michael Jordan posted 22 in 1 / 4 within the 1993 NBA Finals.

Still, it wasn’t almost sufficient. By the tip of the third quarter, the Bucks turned an 11-level halftime deficit into … a ten-level deficit.

When Khris Middleton has struggled on offense through the postseason, the Bucks often have misplaced. Middleton averages eight fewer factors in Bucks losses, and with simply 11 factors on 5-for-16 capturing in Game 2, there was a reducing secondary edge lacking within the Milwaukee offense. Middleton tried all angles — forcing pictures, taking part in decoy, attacking the rim to attract fouls. None of it labored. Jrue Holiday completed with 17 factors on 7-for-21 capturing, and Brook Lopez was a non-issue with 8 factors in 28 minutes.

For the Bucks to get again on this sequence, they merely want extra from gamers not named Antetokounmpo. They’re not designed to be the Giannis present.

One extra telling stat, this one out there on the ultimate buzzer: Antetokounmpo was a plus-3 for the sport; the remainder of the Milwaukee beginning 5? A mixed minus-24.

— Royce Young


The 10 passes that epitomized the Suns

On the Suns’ ultimate possession of the primary half, Milwaukee’s rotations and recoveries could not have been a lot better for the primary 9 passes, the final of which Khris Middleton deflected proper again into Jae Crowder’s fingers. The Suns lastly gained a bonus on the following go, which ended up being a hockey help after Mikal Bridges flashed to the elbow to catch the ball and shortly redirected it to Deandre Ayton reducing to the basket.

Ayton muscled over a too-late-arriving P.J. Tucker for the layup. All that effort by the Bucks resulted in and-1 for the Suns.

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Suns put their passing on show as they discover Deandre Ayton beneath for an and-1.

That possession, which stretched the Suns’ result in double digits and delivered a blow to the exhausted Bucks’ psyche, exhibited lots of the traits which have fueled Phoenix’s run to the Finals: poise, endurance, intelligence, execution, connectivity and somewhat little bit of luck.

Phoenix has stars able to carrying the staff, as Chris Paul did within the earlier two video games and Devin Booker has achieved on a number of events throughout his first postseason. But the Suns’ people hardly ever, if ever, attempt to do an excessive amount of. The belief on this staff is obvious, a testomony to educate Monty Williams’ steerage, Paul’s management and the younger core’s maturity.

The consequence: an attractive model of basketball that has the Suns two wins away from a title.

— Tim MacMahon


Where did Milwaukee’s exterior capturing go?

Game 2 represented a serious math downside for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks merely cannot enable the Suns to have as a lot success as they did from past the arc if they can not get their very own pictures to fall.

After successful the three-level battle in Game 1, 16-11 — however nonetheless shedding the sport — the Bucks fell woefully quick from vary Thursday night time. The Suns outscored the Bucks by 33 factors from 3, ending 20-of-40 whereas the Bucks shot simply 9-of-31 (6-of-18 on open 3s). The 20 3-pointers are tied for the second-most in NBA Finals historical past.

According to ESPN Stats and Information analysis, groups are 735-348 (.708) this season (together with playoffs) when a staff hits extra 3-pointers than its opponent.

When a staff hits at the least 10 extra 3-pointers than its opponent, because the Suns did, these groups are 99-13 (.884) this season (together with playoffs) and have received six of seven such video games within the postseason.

And if Phoenix continues to place up 118 factors a sport as they’ve achieved within the first two video games, Milwaukee has to match that output. If the Bucks cannot discover consistency from exterior, their first journey to the Finals in 47 years will likely be a brief one.

— Andrew Lopez


Put some respect on Mikal Bridges’ sport

When the time period “3-and-D” turned widespread as a solution to describe function gamers who make open 3-pointers and play robust protection, it got here with an implied limitation. Typically, 3-and-D implies that’s all a participant can do at an above-common stage.

Mikal Bridges was taken No. 10 general within the 2018 NBA draft largely because of his 3-and-D capabilities, however he is confirmed to be greater than that, as he demonstrated in Game 2, with the Bucks focusing extra defensive consideration on Chris Paul and Devin Booker. That meant extra alternatives for Bridges to create, and he scored 27 factors, a playoff profession excessive.

Funny sufficient, Bridges (3-of-9 from past the arc) wasn’t all that big of part of the Suns setting a franchise playoff document with 20 3-pointers. But he created 4 further scores when the Bucks closed out too laborious and he was capable of rating off the dribble — not usually a energy for 3-and-D gamers.

That included Bridges’ greatest buckets of the night time, a driving banker with 3:35 remaining that pushed Phoenix’s result in 11, and one other drive that resulted in a visit to the free-throw line with 1:21 left. Later, Bridges helped put the sport away when Milwaukee repeatedly fouled him within the ultimate minute. All in an evening’s work that included excess of typical 3-and-D manufacturing.

— Kevin Pelton