The Milwaukee Bucks took game 3 of the NBA Finals at home in a 120-100 beat down of the Phoenix Suns to bring the series score to 2-1.
In a pivotal game 4, both teams need to make adjustments and play at the peak of their abilities to win a game that will be an absolute dogfight.
Featured image of the Larry O’Brien trophy courtesy of NBA.com
Key #1: Deandre Ayton Avoiding Foul Trouble
On paper, Deandre Ayton had a solid game. Ayton scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds on 8-of-11 shooting.
Twelve of his 18 points came in the first quarter due to early fouls that pushed him to the bench.
Without Ayton on the floor, the Suns run a small lineup, or they play Frank Kaminsky.
In a smaller lineup and against Kaminsky, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks supporting cast have an easier time scoring in the paint.
Antetokounmpo punished the Suns in the paint in back-to-back games.
After a 41-point 13-rebound performance in game 3, the Greek Freak is forever linked with Shaquille O’Neal as the only other player in NBA Finals history to post back-to-back 40-point, 10-rebound games.
The Suns also lose significant offensive production when their best screener and post scorer goes to the bench.
Ayton-less lineups lack scoring prowess at the center position. So in pick-and-roll situations, the Bucks can commit more defensive energy to Suns’ guards and wings.
At this stage of basketball, Ayton is aware of his importance. Look to see if Ayton is conservative when contesting shots in game 4.
Key#2: Bounce Back Booker
Devin Booker needs to have his shots fall if the Suns want to put the Bucks in a 3-1 series chokehold.
Booker is a talented tough-shot maker, and the Bucks are doing everything in their power to make each possession difficult for him.
However, Booker is settling for jump shots often in this series. He needs to find a way to score more points around the basket despite the tenacious Bucks perimeter defense.
In game 3, Booker scored just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting from the field, 1-of-7 from three, and 3-of-5 from the foul line.
Booker has taken a total of five free throws in the last two games. A stark contrast to the 10 he attempted in game 1.
He doesn’t need to slash all game to get more calls, but seeing a close layup or floater go in the basket is beneficial to anyone in a shooting slump.
I’m taking the Bucks in game 4. However, I do not think they win in a blowout.
Phoenix’s mistakes from game 3 are easily correctable, and they’re too talented to not put up a fight in back-to-back games.
Game 4 should easily be the most competitive in the series so far, and I’m looking for the contest to be decided by three points when the clock hits 0:00.
NBA Finals Game 4: Wednesday, July 14th 9:00 p.m EST.
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