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NBA Finals Preview: Phoenix Suns vs Milwaukee Bucks

In what is one of the more unexpected NBA Finals series in recent memory, Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns will square off with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s been a long time coming but, in the twilight of his career, Paul has finally won a conference championship and made the finals. Phoenix knocked the Los Angeles Clippers out in six games during the conference finals, with that series following a sweep of the Denver Nuggets in the semi-finals, and a tense six-game upset win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.

On the other end, the Bucks, heavily reliant on Antetokounmpo, has proven to be an attacking force. It’s created some inconsistency though, needing six games to go past the Atlanta Hawks in the conference finals, which followed seven to beat the Brooklyn Nets. The first-round brought with it a much easier sweep of the Miami Heat. While the regular season saw Milwaukee put up more points than any other team at 120.8 per game, the post-season has seen a significant drop off in offensive output. In fact, the playoffs have seen Milwaukee score just 109.8 points per game, despite running up 123 and 118 respectively in their final two wins against Atlanta.

Inconsistency and a somewhat one-dimensional offence have plagued the Bucks, with scoring rapidly falling away after the output of Antetokounmpo (28.2 points per game) and Khris Middleton (23.4 points per game). Taking on one of the league’s best defensive outfits, they will need other role players like Brook Lopez (13.5 points per game) and Jrue Holiday (8.4 assists per game) to stand up with far better performances.

Milwaukee’s defence has come on in leaps and bounds during the playoffs though, conceding just 103.7 points per game. It must be said though that with ten games against the Heat and Hawks, those stats must be taken with a grain of salt. Their offence will be what wins them a title, but doing it against Phoenix, who have only conceded 101.9 points per game in the post-season, will be extremely difficult. They have a track record of being defensively very stingy, having held the third-best record for the entire season at just 107.4 points per game.

The way they switch on the ball will leave Milwaukee struggling, given they are one of the lowest-assisting teams in the competition. Compare that to Phoenix, who have made the third-most assists in the league on the back of Chris Paul, and a recipe for a Suns’ championship is being written. Paul, with his almost nine assists per game, will be the key for the Suns, but so too will his scoring. Combined with Devin Booker’s 25.6 points per game and DeAndre Ayton’s almost 63 per cent shot record from the field, Phoenix has an efficient offence that will at times, need to go toe-to-toe with Giannis and the Bucks when they inevitably get on a run. Phoenix will, however, back their defence to handle any such run and with Paul as one of the game’s leading stealers, plus Ayton averaging over 10 rebounds and a block per game, they have all the tools to handle any onslaught.

Verdict: Phoenix have a home-court advantage, and while this will be a hard-fought series, Chris Paul’s experience in the big moments should carry the Suns across the line in a famous victory.

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