In the first two games of the 2021 NBA Finals, Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 31 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks. He had 42 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in Game Two. Despite those numbers from the two-time MVP, the Milwaukee Bucks lost the first two games of the championship series in Phoenix.
Mind you, Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing despite getting hurt in the previous round against the Atlanta Hawks, which means the Bucks cannot rely on their star alone.
Better Shooting Efficiency
Game Two saw the other stars of the Bucks struggled offensively, especially from the three-point line. Jrue Holiday averaged 22 points on 36% shooting from outside against the Hawks. In the finals, Holiday is averaging 13 points on 16% shooting from rainbow distance. He finished with 17 points in Game Two on a woeful seven for 21 field goal shooting in 39 minutes.
In the series opener, Holiday had ten points on four for 14 field goal shooting.
Khris Middleton’s numbers in the finals dropped saw a slight drop from the numbers he put up in the Eastern Conference Finals. From 23 points per game in six games against the Hawks, Middleton averaged 20 points in the first two games of the finals. While he improved on his three-point shooting (25% in the East Finals) to 29% during the finals, Middleton cannot continue shooting 15% from outside against a team that has a premiere sniper in Devin Booker.
As a team, the Bucks only shot 29% from the three-point line in Game Two.
Sure, Game Two witnessed the Bucks outscoring the Suns 54-29 in the paint but, the Suns torched the Bucks from the three-point line. As a team, Phoenix made half of their 40 attempts from the three-point line.
There’s no way you can allow a team to make 20 threes in a game and still win. Not against a team loaded with reliable snipers. Not when your star player can’t make threes consistently.
For Game Three, the Bucks must have one defensive priority: contain Devin Booker.
Booker had 27 points on eight for 21 field goal shooting to open the series. He pumped it up to 31 points on 12 for 25 field goal shooting in Game Two. If the Bucks can’t find a way to extinguish the Booker flame, Booker will torch them. And Booker isn’t the only problem Coach Mike Budenholzer needs to solve.
Chris Paul, at 36, is still causing problems. After erupting for 32 points in the opener, CP3 had 23 points on 50% field goal shooting in Game Two.
The solution is: Jrue Holiday and the rest of Milwaukee’s backcourt must ensure that they stay on Chris Paul on defense. It’s easier said than done but chasing down a 36-year old point guard plays a key to determining how long this series is for the Bucks.
The Bucks aren’t Out. Yet
The Bucks aren’t out of this series just yet. They need to take care of business in Game Three and avoid facing a 0-3 deficit entering Game Four. While they aren’t out of the series yet, the pressure will be on the Bucks to win Game Three. A win will make this a series again.
A loss will only make this a short run for the Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo will do Giannis Antetokounmpo things even if he’s injured. But what happens if he goes down again?
With that said, the rest of the pack needs to step it up on both ends of the court to ensure that Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t need to carry the whole team on his own.