MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – With Game 3 of the NBA Finals set to go down on Sunday, July 11, the Milwaukee Bucks will need to make some adjustments. The Phoenix Suns own a 2-0 lead after winning back-to-back games at home to open the series. Now, many questions need to be answered; What can the Bucks do on defense to slow down the Phoenix offense? Is Giannis back to 100% after his injury?
Let’s break down the questions on everyone’s mind heading into Game 3.
What can Milwaukee do differently on defense?
The X-Factor in Games 1 and 2 was the way the Suns were able to pick apart the Bucks defense and their switch-everything scheme. After two games, it is clear there are major problems with that defensive mindset. For one, Brook Lopez is just too slow at this point in his career to switch onto the Suns’ guards. Secondly, Chris Paul is just too skilled and crafty as a veteran point guard. He has been able to pick apart the Bucks defense with ease when the Bucks run their switching scheme.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer will need to make an adjustment if the Bucks want a chance to win the series. Seemingly, he has to make one of two choices; either the Bucks change their defensive scheme or they change up their rotations. The switch-everything scheme is what worked for them in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the Suns are a much different team than the Hawks. Chris Paul is elite at isolating mismatches and getting the ball to the right spot.
Moving forward, the Bucks may experiment with Giannis running at the 5-position for longer stretches. If he is at 100%, his presence as a small-ball center could be just what the Bucks’ defense needs. Otherwise, the defense will have to change if they want to slow down CP3 and the Suns.
Is Giannis at 100%?
It is hard to argue that Giannis is not fully back after the 42-point performance he put forward in Game 2. Still, it is just as hard to convince yourself that anyone could recover this quickly from that nasty knee injury he suffered a week and a half ago.
We are bound to see Giannis’s role increase throughout Games 3 and 4 at home. However, that will put his knee to the test as he increases his workload on both offense and defense. Hopefully, the Bucks can monitor him well enough to know if something is seriously wrong. The last thing we want to see is a repeat of what happened to Kevin Durant in the 2019 Finals.
Will CP3 keep up this pace? Will Middleton and Holiday pick up their play?
Chris Paul has waited a long time for this moment. The 16-year veteran was always one of the best point guards in the league throughout his career. However, the conversation around his legacy always came back to his lack of success in the postseason. Now, he and the Suns are just two wins away from grabbing their first championship.
CP3 has been the most dominant player in the first two games and is lining up as the favorite for Finals MVP if the Suns go on to win. He has averaged 27.5 PPG, 8.5 APG, and 4 RPG in the two Suns’ wins.
We will have to see if the Suns and CP3 can keep up this pace on the road. Being on the road has not bothered CP3 in this postseason; both of his highest-scoring games this postseason (41 PTS vs. LAC, 37 PTS vs. DEN) came on the road.
For the Bucks, the need for a second and third option on the offensive side is weighing heavy right now. Khris Middleton has been their best scorer at times in the postseason but struggled in Game 2, finishing with 11 points on 5 of 16 shooting from the field and 1 of 6 from three. Holiday struggled to find his rhythm in both of the opening games, shooting just 11 for 35 from the field.
Whether Middleton and Holiday can figure out their offensive struggles will be vital for the Bucks’ chances. Giannis cannot bring this team back alone; he tried and failed in Game 2, scoring at will in the third quarter to finish with 42 points in a losing effort.
Do you have more questions?
Stay tuned to the Tunnel Vision Sports social media pages for a special NBA Roundtable Discussion with the TV Sports Staff. Our top basketball minds got together to tackle all these questions and more, so stay tuned for more NBA Finals coverage.
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NBA Finals, Game 2, Sunday, July 11, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisc.