The daily preview muscles into the paint with NBA Playoffs tips for Game 4 of the NBA Finals between Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.
10:00 (AEST), Thu 15th Jul @ Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee
History: Played 151: Suns 77 V Bucks 74
Last meeting: July 12, 2021 (Game 3): Bucks 120 d Suns 100 at Fiserv Forum
Final Thoughts: Seemingly on the brink after two games, Milwaukee Bucks now have the opportunity to square the NBA Finals at home in Game 4. For the first time in the series, a bit of acid has been applied to Phoenix Suns.
The Suns initially took the ascendancy with a 118-105 win in the series opener. Chris Paul put up 32 pts (12-for 19 shooting) and 9 assists. Devin Booker had 27 points, while big man Deandre Ayton (22 pts, 19 reb) was superb at both ends. Giannis Antetokoumpo managed 20 points, 17 rebounds and 4 assists in 34 minutes of game-time, defying a knee injury that kept him out of the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. Khris Middleton (29 pts, 7 reb, 4 ast) attempted to pick up some slack and hit five three-pointers.
The Suns reached the halfway mark of what they need for a maiden Championship by taking out Game 2 by 118-108. Antetokoumpo (42 pts, 12 reb) was back to somewhere near his blockbusting best, but support was lacking. Middleton and Jrue Holiday managed just 12-for-37 from the field between them. The Bucks shot better from three-point range in Game 1 but struggled from behind the arc in Game 2, hitting just 9 of 31. The Suns nailed half of their 40 three-point attempts in arguably the key difference. Devin Booker (31 pts, 6 ast) went 7-for-12 from three, while Mikal Bridges (27 pts, 7 reb) and Paul (23 pts, 8 ast) also starred. Ayton and Jae Crowder both had double-doubles.
Bucks turn it around on home court
Despite their lack of momentum, the Bucks were $1.52 favourites to get on the board at home – and they justified that faith with a comprehensive 120-100 victory in Game 3. Behind by three after the first quarter, they rallied to lead by 14 at halftime.
Giannis emphatically announced his knee injury was in the rearview mirror with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. Middleton and Holiday rediscovered their range – nailing eight of 17 three-point attempts between them. This time it was the Suns who struggled from three (9-for-31). Booker scored just 10 points. Paul (19 pts, 9 reb), Crowder (18 pts, 6 reb) and Ayton (18 pts, 9 reb) were decent.
The Bucks’ size advantage finally told for the first time in the Finals. They dominated the boards (47-36) and second-chance points tally (20-2)
Milwaukee are 34-11 at home this season, losing just one of their eight at Fiserv Forum – Game 1 against the Hawks – in these playoffs. Phoenix are 30-15 on the road, winning six of nine away in the post-season.
The Bucks have a real sniff now and will be hell-bent on heading back to Phoenix 2-2. The Suns have been astoundingly consistent and have lost back-to-back just three times since the start of February – but I’ve still got the hosts covering in a much tighter contest.