5 reasons why Phoenix Suns won 118-105 against Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of 2021 NBA Finals

Devin Booker #1 against Pat Connaughton #24
Devin Booker #1 against Pat Connaughton #24

The Phoenix‌ ‌Suns‌‌ ‌took Game 1 of the NBA Finals from the Milwaukee Bucks with a 118-105 victory at Phoenix Suns Arena on Tuesday.

Chris Paul made his NBA Finals debut with a sensational performance on both ends of the court. After a slow start, he found his groove in the second quarter and never looked back, registering 32 points, nine assists and four rebounds. The Phoenix Suns guard dominated his matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jrue Holiday, who struggled with his shot (4-of-14 for 10 points).

The Milwaukee Bucks got a boost prior to the game when it was announced that Giannis Antetokounmpo would play despite suffering a hyperextended left knee a week ago. He was doubtful a day earlier and was questionable hours before the game.

Antetokounmpo had 20 points and 17 rebounds in his own debut Finals game, but it was Khris Middleton who led the Milwaukee Bucks with 29 points.

Brook Lopez #11 and Deandre Ayton #22 go up for the tip
Brook Lopez #11 and Deandre Ayton #22 go up for the tip

Here are 5 reasons why the Phoenix Suns won against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals:

#1 Phoenix Suns took advantage of Brook Lopez mismatch

Devin Booker and Chris Paul often took turns to beat Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez off the dribble.

The switch allowed the Phoenix Suns to either score immediately on possession or to initiate ball movement (more on this later), which would lead to a score.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer waited until the fourth quarter to make the adjustment by sitting Lopez, but it was too late by then.

#2 Phoenix Suns caused Milwaukee Bucks turnovers, beat them in transition

Deandre Ayton goes up for a shot against Giannis Antetokounmpo #34
Deandre Ayton goes up for a shot against Giannis Antetokounmpo #34

Turnovers were a problem for the Milwaukee Bucks, with eight of them coming in the first half as the Phoenix Suns forced them to cough up the ball with suffocating defense.

Though they trimmed their turnovers down to just six in the second half, the Bucks still allowed the Suns to score often in transition (20 points on fastbreaks).

Deandre Ayton was exceptional in transition for the Phoenix Suns, moving down the lane to receive a pass from teammates and get easy baskets with no bigs in the middle.

#3 Living at the line

Devin Booker #1 brings the ball up court against Jrue Holiday #21
Devin Booker #1 brings the ball up court against Jrue Holiday #21

The Phoenix Suns had a whopping 10 free-throw advantage in the game, making 25 of 26 shots from the line compared to just 9 of 16 by the Milwaukee Bucks.

It all started with Devin Booker, who got to the line early and often, making 8 of 8 in the first half alone.

Moreover, the Phoenix Suns didn’t miss a free throw until Jae Crowder squandered the second of two with less than 25 seconds remaining in the game.

#4 Excellent ball movement against Milwaukee Bucks

The Phoenix Suns moved the ball with quick and sharp passes that left the Milwaukee Bucks scrambling on defense. The Bucks are one of the top defensive teams in both the regular season and the playoffs, but the Suns kept them on their toes with their excellent ball movement.

No one from the Suns attacked the basket or took a shot unless they were wide open.

Part of the Bucks’ problem with containing the ball was caused by the previously mentioned switches on Lopez. Paul and Booker either took the shot themselves against Lopez or executed plays off the mismatch.

#5 Phoenix Suns’ Big 3 dominate

Chris Paul #3 runs back after a basket
Chris Paul #3 runs back after a basket

Though not necessarily seen as a Big 3, the Phoenix Suns’ three best players had sensational outings in their first appearance in the NBA Finals.

Aside from Paul’s stellar performance, Booker was just as important to the Suns’ cause. The sweet-shooting marksman scored 16 of his 27 points in the first half, and his aggressiveness from tip-off to the final buzzer seemed to catch the Milwaukee Bucks off-guard.

Ayton was also a surprise for the Phoenix Suns. The third-year man from Arizona had 22 points and 19 rebounds, easily outplaying Milwaukee Bucks counterpart Lopez in the paint and in transition.

Though he couldn’t completely stop Lopez, who netted 17 points and six rebounds, his strong play in the paint allowed the Suns to get a 44-42 edge in points.

Also Read: Ranking Chris Paul's 5 best teammates during his 16-year NBA career

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Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh
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