District of Concerns


The Wizards 101-99 Friday night win against the Oklahoma City Thunder was a sigh of relief for The District, but the win shows the team still has a mountain to climb to return to the form they displayed early in the season.

Wizards Skid

The Wizards are 2-4 in their last six games, and their two wins in that stretch are by a combined five points. A close call to the Miami Heat is understandable, but a close call to the Thunder following a blowout loss to the New Orleans Pelicans is a sign of concern.

Even with Bertans’ return last Wednesday, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shooting 4-of-7 from deep Friday, the Wizards still have question marks surrounding their offensive production and outside shooting.

Costly turnovers and Spencer Dinwiddie’s slow start to the season are more problems that Wes Unseld Jr. has to solve, but the Wizards have the talent to right their offensive woes.


On the bright side, Washington defends well and is currently 6th in NBA in rebounds per game (46.8) and tied for 1st in defensive rebounds per game (37.6).

Individually, Daniel Gafford’s 8 block game against the Thunder is the best Wizard performance of the last six games, and his 8 blocks are the most by a Wizard since JaVale McGee had 12 blocks against the Chicago Bulls in 2011.

As mentioned in my last post, intensity on defense will keep this team competitive, and outside of the Pelicans game on Thanksgiving eve, that intensity is here to stay.

Time to Panic?

With Rui Hachimura spotted in the team facility last week for the first time publicly and Thomas Bryant still recovering from his ACL injury from last season, the Wizards can’t wait until returning to full strength to fix their offense.

It is still too early to panic, but Washington desperately needs a “get right” game against a good team, and Saturday night against the 4th seeded Mavericks is just that. A convincing win versus a team playing solid basketball of late is just what the Wizards need to prove to themselves that their early start is much more than a flash in the pan.

Are The Wizards Legit?


A 10-3 start—the best start to a Wizards/Bullets season since 1974—shows the Wizards are competing nightly as one of the best teams in the NBA.

However, the NBA season is a marathon, not a sprint.

A few things need to go Washington’s way to continue the high level of play we’ve seen thus far.

Stay Healthy

Saying a team needs to stay healthy is a cliché, but for a team that thrives off depth, it is imperative the links in the chain they’ve built hold strong.

Thomas Bryant probably returns toward beginning of 2021 season, agent says  | RSN
Wizards center Thomas Bryant (Photo/NBC)

The Wizards are proving their depth can win.

Bradley Beal missed the last two contests due to personal reasons, and every player on the floor stepped up to bring two W’s to The District.

With an already deep roster, the Wizards are still missing a few key pieces that can bring the rotation to one-hundred percent.

Center Thomas Bryant seeks a December return to action after his knee injury last season. Davis Bertans is Week-to-Week with an ankle injury, and Rui Hachimura is currently out of game action (personal reasons).

For a team that thrives off of the ability to throw a variety of matchups at opponents, Washington will have to hope for a healthy season to maximize the potential we’ve seen through the first 13 games.

Sustained Defensive Intensity

The most dramatic change this season in DC is on the defensive end of the court. Wes Unseld jr. has his team communicating well and stifling opponents en route to the 4th best defensive rating in the league (102.7).

The key to success through the marathon of the season is to have motivated players every night.

Daniel Gafford, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are a few names expected to bring intensity to every game but, the emergence of Deni Avdija and his activity and execution in every individual matchup is a key component of the fast start this season.

Chase Hughes on Twitter: "After forcing Giannis into travel, Deni Avdija  threw up a Dez Bryant-esque X. Montrezl Harrell loved it.  https://t.co/Lx6J54bsLV" / Twitter
Deni Avdija throwing up the “X” after forcing a late turnover on Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo/NBC Sports Washington)

Deni has the size and athleticism to stick with most players in the league and is showing this season the anticipation and composure to hang with superstars down the stretch. I’ve watched Deni force turnovers on Giannis in crunch time, along with a sound 4th quarter against Brandon Ingram that fueled a Wizards comeback from a 19-point deficit Monday night.

The team rallies around intensity, and as the NBA season continues, it can be hard to get excited about every matchup. Bringing the same energy regardless of opponent eluded Wizards teams in recent history, so a reversal of history is necessary for continued success this season.

Another All-NBA Bradley Beal Season

He’s the true number one option in the Wizards offensive attack, and to keep his team around the top of the standings, Bradley Beal has to play like the All-NBA talent he is.

Despite a slow scoring start for Beal this year, the Wizards are winning, but you can see the offense go flat during stretches without him on the floor.

In a half-court setting, every basketball team needs a guy like Beal who can score when the game slows down. The Wizards are lucky to also have Spencer Dinwiddie in the backcourt, but if Beal can play at an All-NBA level, Dinwiddie will also soar to new heights.

Through 13 games, the team has shown us they have what it takes to be good. To go from good to great and sustain a spot at the top of the East through the season, this team has to constantly improve, stay healthy, and bring the fight to opponents every night.

Tokyo 2020: Team USA and 3×3 Basketball


3×3 Basketball is one of the fastest-growing and most electric sports in the world.

The growing popularity of 3×3 convinced the International Olympic Committee to add the sport to the Tokyo games for the first time in Olympic history.

The video above shows how 3×3 is a vastly different game from traditional 5-on-5 and the 3×3 style primarily played in America.

In an interview of USA Women’s 3×3 player Allisha Gray by FiveThirtyEight, she states that 3×3 is more physical than traditional 5-on-5 basketball. “There’s a physicality to the game; you can body people more and be more aggressive than the traditional 5-on-5. You can get away with a lot more fouls.”

The fast pace and physical play should be a breath of fresh air to traditional basketball fans who have seen foul-baiting and foul reviews dominate the game in America.

Overall, 3×3 is a hoopers game. Every player needs to handle the rock, shoot the ball well, defend, rebound, cut, pass, etc.

3×3 is here to stay, and I hope the game grows so much in America that sanctioned leagues appear all across the country.

Team USA

From left to right: Jackie Young, Kara Lawson, Stefanie Dolson, Kelsey Plum, Allisha Grey (Photo via USAB3x3 instagram)

The USA Women’s 3×3 team is working to bring home the gold in 2021. The four WNBA hoopers led by Duke women’s basketball coach and Alexandria, Virginia native Kara Lawson bring unique talents to form a competitive side for international competition.

Team USA includes Las Vegas Aces guards Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray, and Chicago Sky center, Stefanie Dolson.

Katie Lou Samuelson of the Seattle Storm was initially on the squad but will miss the Olympics due to health and safety protocols.

After going 6-0 in Olympic qualifying, Team USA looks like a threat to take home the gold, even without Samuelson. The guards on the team are incredible with the ball in their hands, and Dolson is a physical bruiser in the paint.

Kelsey Plum looks like she hasn’t missed a beat in her comeback from an Achilles injury and the scoring prowess she showed during her time at the University of Washington is on another level since she’s been a pro.

I’m excited to see this team bring back the first USA gold medal in 3×3 basketball.

To keep track of the games, here is a link to the USAB3x3 Olympic schedule.

Note: The USA Men’s 3×3 team did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

USA Olympic Basketball Preview: Women’s Basketball


The United States women’s basketball team is a historical bastion of success on the hardwood.

The USA women are the reigning gold medalists and have yet to miss out on gold in the last six Olympic games.

This rendition of the team is absent a few big names like Candace Parker and Elena Delle Donne, but basketball talent runs deep in this country, and the group assembled has its fair share of walking buckets.

The hoopers playing in Tokyo are a combination of fresh faces of the WNBA, experienced vets, and a few basketball legends.

Team USA suffered back-to-back exhibition losses against the WNBA All-Star team and the Australian Opals but bounced back against Nigeria in a 93-62 win.

Despite the hiccups in friendly play, Team USA has everything it takes to win the gold in 2021.

Names to Watch + Link to Full Roster

Sue Bird #6 | Guard 5’9 | Seattle Storm

Sue Bird is a few wins in Tokyo from increasing her international legacy and earning a fifth-straight Olympic gold medal.

Bird has been a steady and productive presence since joining WNBA from the University of Connecticut in 2002.

Sue Bird And Eddy Alvarez Selected As Team USA's Flag Bearers For The  Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Photo courtesy of teamusa.org

The Seattle Storm floor general is the most experienced player on the roster and looks to use her sharpshooting to add to her 142-6 record in a USA uniform.

Note: Bird and USA baseball player Eddy Alvarez are the flagbearers for team USA.

A’ja Wilson #9 | Forward 6’5 | Las Vegas Aces

A’ja Wilson is one of the few figures in American sports to have a statue at their alma mater.

Reigning WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson gets statue for work on and off court
A’ja Wilson and her eight-foot-tall statue at the University of South Carolina (Photo via USA Today)

Wilson’s image is immortal in bronze, and her stellar play at the University of South Carolina earned her that honor. In Tokyo, however, gold is the goal.

Wilson is a talented player who has her fingerprints on every game she plays.

The Las Vegas Aces forward has a 47-0 record in a team USA uniform.

Aja Wilson
A’ja Wilson courtesy of Getty Images and teamusa.org

The 2020 WNBA MVP brings her deadly mid-range game to Tokyo, and her scoring and defense will determine if the U.S is going to win gold.

Breanna Stewart #10 | Forward 6’4 | Seattle Storm

Breanna Stewart—along with A’ja Wilson—will anchor this USA team.

Olympic Basketball Gold Medalist Breanna Stewart Announces Engagement
Breanna Stewart via teamusa.org

The Seattle Storm two-time WNBA Finals MVP scores all over the court, and her combination with Wilson creates a highly-talented frontcourt unmatched by most countries in the Olympic pool.

Dawn Staley | Coach | University of South Carolina

Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, three-time Olympic gold medalist, and 2004 flag bearer Dawn Staley is making her mark in international basketball as a coach this time around.

Strong faith, desire to succeed help Dawn Staley overcome challenging year  | South Carolina | postandcourier.com
Dawn Staley via AP/Gary McCullough

Staley turned the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team into a powerhouse in her current tenure.

Her NCAA national championship win in 2017, and consistent standard of excellence confirm that she’s the right person to command this U.S team.

Group Round Schedule

Tuesday, July 27: vs. Nigeria, at 12:40 a.m. EST

Friday, July 30: vs. Japan at 12:40 a.m. EST

Monday, Aug. 2: vs. France at 12:40 a.m. EST

Link to Full Roster

“Breakaway” A Fight For Justice


In our current era, athlete connections to social issues in America are more prevalent than we’ve ever seen in recent history.

As a result, athletes who go the extra mile outside of blanket statements for equality and social media posts are refreshing in a time when our timelines show plenty of empty gestures.

Maya Moore is an athlete that always goes the extra mile, and the story told in her ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Breakaway” highlights how special of an athlete and person she is.

Featured image of Maya Moore and Jonathan Irons courtesy of @minnesotalynx on instagram.


“Breakaway” follows the life and career of Maya Moore along with the life of her husband Jonathan Irons and his fight for freedom after a wrongful conviction and 50-year sentencing in the state of Missouri.


The biggest takeaway from this documentary is the army of people that it took for a wrongfully convicted man to be freed from prison.

It took Moore’s family, teams of lawyers, resources, notoriety from Moore’s incredible basketball career, along with her stepping away from the game she loves to put enough pressure on the state to overturn Irons’ wrongful conviction.

It is important to note that the Missouri attorney general unsuccessfully appealed the judge’s decision to overturn Irons’ conviction, adding another obstacle to a long-drawn-out fight for freedom.

An Example of Commitment

In her pursuit of justice, Moore showed a high level of commitment to social change through action.

Moore—a two-time NCAA and four-time WNBA champion—left basketball at the peak of the profession to pursue and bring awareness to not just the wrongful conviction of Jonathan Irons but the many issues that plague the criminal justice system in America.

Moore’s actions separate her from many athletes and individuals in America’s recent increase in social justice awareness.

While the blanket statements, black squares, and other gestures can come from a genuine place in the hearts of many, turning ideology into action is the only way to solve problems with our world.

Turning ideology into action is why seeing an athlete like Moore means so much because her success in the public eye could potentially be a blueprint for what it will take for athletes in the future to create meaningful change in their communities.

Where to Watch

“Breakaway” is available for steaming through ESPN watch or ESPN+.

“Breakaway” will also air again on Sunday, July 25th on ESPN2.

Promo from July 13th via @MooreMaya on Twitter

NBA Finals Game 5: Way Too Simple Keys To Victory


Saturday night, the Phoenix Suns host the Milwaukee Bucks in game 5 of the NBA Finals.

So far, every game has thrilled fans across the globe, and game 5 should be no different as both teams are looking to take command of the series by securing a third win.

Correctable Mistakes

Suns coach Monty Williams mentioned in his inspiring postgame speech that Phoenix’s mistakes in game 4 are “correctable.” And he’s one-hundred percent correct.

Phoenix uncharacteristically lost the turnover battle in their 109-103 loss to Milwaukee. The Suns committed 17 turnovers to Milwaukee’s five.

To fix their turnover woes, Phoenix needs more from Chris Paul tonight.

CP3 scored 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field and committed five turnovers in what was a tough game for the “Point God.”

Jrue Holiday’s harassing of Paul the entire length of the court on the defensive end contributed to the latter’s five turnovers, but Paul’s mistakes were trivial at times.

One of Chris Paul’s crucial game 4 turnovers leading directly to a Bucks bucket that sealed the game

Despite great defense from Milwaukee—and maybe a few nagging injuries—Chris Paul sets the tone for the rest of the Suns, good or bad.

Without Paul’s usual brand of ball security, there’s no way his team can win this game and the series.

Added note: When Chris Paul takes care of the ball and plays well, Deandre Ayton tends to score more.

Milwaukee’s Foul Shooting

Milwaukee’s leader Giannis Antetokounmpo is a prolific paint scorer. Due to his play inside, he tends to draw plenty of fouls.

However, he is not a great foul shooter. The “Greek Freak” is shooting 63.6 percent from the line in the finals. (up from his 56.8 percent mark over the entire postseason)

To make up for their superstar’s poor shooting from the charity stripe, the rest of the Bucks have to shoot lights out from the line.

It will be challenging for the Bucks to shoot well while being hounded by the fans in the Valley, but this is professional basketball. They are more than capable.

If they can shoot well from the line, they increase their chances to win what should be a close game.

Middleton Repeat Game

Khris Middleton looked like the All-Star, $35 mil per year player we’re accustomed to seeing now and then in Milwaukee.

Middleton took over game 4 with 40 points on 15-of-33 shooting. He also scored 10 points down the stretch in the 4th quarter to ice the game.

Middleton is known for having great games at home in the playoffs, but he’s also known for inconsistencies on the road.

Milwaukee has to win a game in Phoenix to win the series. To win in Phoenix, they need at least one more masterclass game from Khris Middleton.

Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton needs to look to score more in game 5. He’s defending the paint and rebounding well, but his scoring is what makes his team go from good to great.

Deandre Ayton’s hot game 3 start… The Suns need him to play like this to avoid going down 2-3 in the series

Ayton’s defense of the paint is the toughest assignment for any individual player in the series. However, no matter how fatigued he is, he has to prioritize scoring the ball.

Ayton should be undeterred after shooting 3-for-9 and ending up on the receiving end of one of the most impressive blocks in NBA history.

He should put together a much-improved game tonight.

Prediction & Game Time

In game 4, it took Devin Booker’s benching due to foul trouble to completely halt the Suns’ momentum and give the Bucks control of the game.

Other than that, the Suns played a terrible basketball game and only lost by six points on the road.

I’m taking the Suns (-4) tonight in what should be another close game.

NBA Finals Game 5: Saturday, July 17th 8:30 p.m EST.

Game 4 Box Score

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Featured image of the Larry O’Brien trophy courtesy of NBA.com

District of Buckets NBA Finals: Way Too Simple Game 4 Keys to Victory


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.

Tweet from Michael Gallagher explaining net rating differences with Ayton and Giannis on or off the court—a metric that shows how much better or worse a team is on the court with a specific player

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.

Game 3 Box Score

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District of Buckets NBA Finals Review: Game 2

Thursday night, The Phoenix Suns took a commanding 2-0 series lead after beating the Milwaukee Bucks 118-108 in game 2 of the NBA Finals.

A 2-0 series lead is great to have, but four wins secure the Larry O’Brien trophy. There’s plenty of basketball left to play, and until someone steals a game from a home team, the series is wide open.

Foul Shot Disparity

The Suns dominated game 2 like they dominated game 1.

Despite ending up on the wrong end of the foul shot disparity, an injury to Torrey Craig, and a career-high scoring game from an opposing two-time MVP, the suns found a way to keep rolling.

In game 1, the Suns attempted 10 more free throws than the Bucks. Game 2 ended with the Suns attempting nine fewer free throws than Milwaukee.

After game 1, the free throw disparity was a highlight for the media and fans to discredit much of what the Suns did well.

So in game 2, the free throw disparity shows us that making your free throws at a high percentage takes precedent over simply getting to the line.

The Bucks made 15-of-23 from the foul line and have made 61.5 percent of their free throw attempts through the first two games.

On the flip side, the Suns shot 12-of-14 and are making a blistering 92.5 percent of their free throws in the series.

Booker and Crowder Find Their Stroke

Devin Booker and Jae Crowder found their shooting stroke from deep after a rough night beyond the arc in game 1.

Booker had 31 points, five rebounds, and six assists in game 2. He shot 12-of-25 from the field and 7-of-12 from three. Most impressively, Booker did not attempt a foul shot the entire game.

Crowder finished the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He shot 4-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from the three-point line.

As mentioned in the District of Buckets game 1 preview, Booker and Crowder need to be in a rhythm as the series changes to Milwaukee.

Monty Williams’ Brilliance

Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams proves every night why he’s a coach of the year caliber basketball mind. Game 2 was just another day at the office.

Early in the first quarter, the Bucks’ aggressive attacking put them in a position to take control of the game. Coach Williams counteracted the Bucks’ paint attacking by running a few minutes of a 2-3 zone.

Running a zone in today’s NBA is a risky tactic due to the high level of outside shooting most teams possess.

However, a zone requires a different thought process to attack.

Changing the way an opponent attacks the basket can slow runs and give your team time to adjust. By the time you switch back to man-to-man, there’s a chance you disrupt the momentum of the other team.

The Bucks ended the first quarter up three points. In the 2nd half, the Bucks outscored the Suns by one point.

The game was decided in the second quarter when the Suns switched the momentum of the contest after exiting the zone. Phoenix outscored Milwaukee 30-16 in the 2nd quarter and never looked back.

Through two games, Williams is coaching circles around Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. If coach Bud can’t match the coaching adjustments of the Suns, Milwaukee has a steep mountain to climb.

Holiday & Middleton Struggle

The offensive inconsistency of the Milwaukee supporting cast continued in game 2.

Jrue Holiday was more aggressive, but his shooting struggles continued as he went 7-of-21 from the field en route to 17 points, five rebounds, and seven assists.

Holiday’s defense traveled to Phoenix, but his shot did not.

Hopefully, his shot will find itself as the series turns to Milwaukee, but he has to show the basketball world these two games were just a fluke.

Khris Middleton also struggled as he scored 11 points on 16 shots.

There isn’t much to say about the supporting cast because they’re getting great opportunities to score.

The ball has to fall in the bucket.

Giannis is a Constant

If there’s one thing the Bucks can be happy about going into game 3, it’s that Phoenix has no answer for Giannis.

Antetokounmpo had a historic finals performance. He set a playoff career-high 42 points, and his 20 points in the third quarter are the most in a Finals game since Michael Jordan scored 22 points in 1993.

Game 3 Predictions

I’m predicting the Bucks defend home court in game 3.

From an eye-test standpoint, they’re moving well on defense and playing aggressively on offense.

I expect that Holiday and Middleton will have great games. I’m betting on their progression to the shooting averages we are accustomed to seeing from them.

If the Bucks outside of Antetokounmpo show up, game 3 will be a tough contest for Phoenix.

Don’t forget: In the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Bucks went down 0-2 against the Harden-less Brooklyn Nets after losing 86-125. They ended up coming back and winning that series.

The talent is there to compete with this great Suns team. It is all about execution now.

NBA Finals Game 3: Sunday, July 11th 8:00 p.m EST.

Game 2 Box Score

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District of Buckets NBA Finals Review: Game 1


Tuesday night, the Phoenix Suns bested the Milwaukee Bucks in game 1 of the NBA Finals 118-105. In what was an electric start to the series, we witnessed moving parts on both teams critical to success or failure in each game and the entire series.

This post is a brief look at storylines, matchups, and potential adjustments that may carry over into game 2.

Bucks-Suns NBA Finals: Giannis Antetokounmpo chase-down block reminiscent  of LeBron James vs. Warriors in 2016 - CBSSports.com

Solving The Pick-And-Roll

A potential Bucks defensive problem mentioned in the District of Buckets Finals Preview went from theory to fact early in game 1.

The Suns used Deandre Ayton as a screener early and often to create action on the pick and roll. Ayton (or whoever is being guarded by Brook Lopez) as the screener creates scoring opportunities for Phoenix and pressure for Milwaukee.

Ayton set solid screens that made it tough for Bucks defenders to chase Phoenix’s guards. Milwaukee also switched many of these screens set by Ayton and left Brook Lopez on an island against Chris Paul (32pts) and Devin Booker (27pts) all night.

The Suns’ first eight points of the game came from forcing Lopez switches. Lopez switches also open up a pass to Deandre Ayton in the paint after he rolls to the basket against a smaller defender.

Ayton’s finishing around the rim is stellar. He finished the game with 23 points and 19 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting.

The Bucks played a small lineup to adjust to the play of the Suns’ guards. They sometimes ran Giannis at center. They also brought in Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton to put more athleticism on the court and allow them to switch. However, this couldn’t last long since Brook Lopez was one of the few Bucks scoring the ball in the first half.

Lopez ended the game with 17 points. But the groove that Chris Paul found after the early Lopez switches led to his domination of the contest. Chris Paul finished the game with 32 points and nine assists.


Next game, I expect the Bucks to find more scoring outside of Lopez and work to keep more athleticism and quickness on the court if they plan to switch everything on the pick-and-roll.

Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo

Plenty needs to happen for the Bucks offensively to keep pace with the Suns. First, they need more out of Jrue Holiday. Holiday finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists but the issue Tuesday night was his shooting. Holiday was 4-for-14 from the field and 0-of-4 from the three-point line.

Holiday is a better offensive player than he showed in game 1, and in game 2 he needs to use his size advantage over Chris Paul and attack the basket.

Giannis Antetokounmpo proved the hyperextended knee that kept him out of two Eastern Conference Finals games is healthy enough to make LeBron-Esque chase-down blocks and power through Deandre Ayton in the paint on offense.

However, by the end of the third quarter, he looked gassed. Coming back after an absence is hard to do in an NBA playoff series, so it may take a few games for the Greek Freak to play with his usual motor for four quarters.

Antetokounmpo finished with 20 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block. A solid stat line for anyone who played 35 minutes. Despite shooting an efficient 6-of-11 from the field, there were times that the superstar looked passive on the offensive end.

A PASSIVE GIANNIS WILL NOT WIN GAMES IN THE VALLEY. I expect by game 3 of the series—assuming his knee holds up—Giannis will play with an offensive motor that matches what he has on the defensive end.

Lastly, for Milwaukee, All-Star Khris Middleton—who led the Bucks scoring with 29 points last night—needs to have the scoring outburst he displayed in the second half earlier in the game. Middleton’s scoring allows the Bucks to keep pace and even helped cut a 20 point Suns’ second-half lead to single digits.

Booker and Crowder 3pt Shooting

Almost everything went right for the Suns last night—except for Jae Crowder and Devin Booker knocking down their long-distance attempts.

Booker (1-for-8) and Crowder (0-for-5) shooting poorly is something I don’t expect to continue, but as the series progresses and changes location in game 3, establishing a rhythm beyond the arc to prepare for the road is crucial for Suns success.

A Shift In Foul Calls

One thing to look for in future finals games, especially game 2, is a potential shift in foul calls. At home in game 1, the Suns were 25-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Bucks were 9-of-16. The Suns receiving 10 more free-throw attempts is rooted in some questionable no-calls against the Bucks.

When this happens, a righting of the wrong by the officiating crew is due. The free-throw attempts for both teams should be closer to even in game 2.

Game 2 Predictions

I’m predicting a closer finish down the stretch—within five points *wink*—and still taking the Suns in game 2. I think Phoenix will ride the energy of the crowd in the Valley and will be difficult to stop offensively.

The silver lining for the Bucks is they can figure out exactly what works well for them and use it to capture some wins when the series switches location to Milwaukee.

We will find out if I’m right when game 2 tips-off Thursday night on ABC at 9:00p.m EST

Game 1 box score: LINK

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NBA Finals Preview


It is finally time for the annual meeting of the NBA’s best from east and west. The 2021 Finals will deliver fans an entertaining fight for NBA immortality.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns tip-off the 2021 NBA Finals Tuesday night, so here is DoB’s preview to get you ready for the series.

William Hill Sportsbook Series Odds

The Milwaukee Bucks

The Eastern conference representative in the NBA Finals dealt with a fair amount of doubt, criticism, and adversity this season. Adversity only strengthened this team, and they are more than ready to fight in a seven-game series for the NBA’s top prize.

NBA: Middleton and Holiday send the Bucks to their first NBA Finals since  1974 | Marca
The Milwaukee Bucks celebrating after winning the Eastern Conference Finals

The Bucks(46-26) finished the regular season as the 3rd seed in the East. Milwaukee’s playoff run includes series victories over the Miami Heat (4-0), The Brooklyn Nets (4-3), and the Atlanta Hawks (4-2).

Key Stars: Milwaukee

The engine of the Mike Budenholzer coached Milwaukee Bucks is two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis this postseason has seen his fair share of tests. Skill-wise, his free-throw and jump shooting issues are highlighted by opposing defenses. Physically, the Bucks star is dealing with pain stemming from a hyperextended knee suffered during the Atlanta Hawks series.

I fully expect to see Giannis early in this series, and even though he’s questionable for game one, I would confidently say that if he doesn’t suit up and the first game goes in Phoenix’s favor, we should expect to see Giannis in game two.

With Giannis ailing, we’ve seen the other talented Bucks step up and do what they do best. Two-time NBA All-Star Khris Middleton has strung together a few impressive playoff series’ and has scored 30+ points three times in his last eight games.

Jrue Holiday is one of the most underrated two-way guards in the league. Jrue has more than done his part to propel the Bucks to their first Finals appearance since 1974. The underrated aspect of Holiday’s game is his offensive contribution. Forever known as a defensive stalwart, Jrue’s offensive game is an afterthought amongst many casual fans. Jrue showed in the Eastern Conference Finals (22 points and ten assists per game vs. ATL) that his offensive game is as good as any guard in the league.

Holiday will be depended on to help the Bucks thrive with a hobbled Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Matchups I’d Love to See: Milwaukee

Jrue Holiday vs CP3/Devin Booker:

I expect Holiday to be primarily matched up on Chris Paul, so it will be interesting to see how he fairs against the ‘Point God’ but I also expect that there will be instances when the Bucks will throw him on Devin Booker. Both matchups will be tough for Holiday, as CP3 and Booker are easily one of the most talented backcourts in the NBA. Offensively, I expect Jrue Holiday to take advantage of his size over Chris Paul and his strength over Booker to effectively score and navigate through the Phoenix defense to make plays all series.

Brook Lopez defending the pick and roll:

Lopez has done a great job defending all postseason, and his effectiveness at defending the rim is one of the key reasons Milwaukee is in the finals. Lopez’s deficiency on defense is his lateral quickness. To avoid exploitation of that deficiency, the Bucks will have Lopez play a drop coverage.

Drop coverage in the pick-and-roll is when the defender of the screener (Lopez in this example) “drops” away from the action to defend the roll and a potential drive. Simultaneously, the on-ball defender fights through the screen to stay with his man.

The issue with drop coverage in this series is that CP3 and Booker have three-level scoring abilities. Scorers who can attack the rim, mid-range, and shoot from deep, challenge the drop defender in so many different ways. This series should be difficult for Lopez, but he is more than able to compete.

Note: CP3 this season shoots 51.6% from mid-range and that’s where Lopez’ coverage will be tested.

Mike Budenholzer vs. playing Bobby Portis:

This is as simple as it gets, the Bucks have enjoyed Bobby Portis’ versatility, but sometimes throughout the playoffs, his minutes have been hard to come by. I’m watching to see if he gets around 15 mins per game minimum as the Bucks seem to be more successful the more he plays.

The Phoenix Suns

Almost a year removed their 8-0 2020 NBA Bubble finish to an otherwise disappointing season the Phoenix Suns are now the NBA Finals representative for the western conference.

The Phoenix Suns turnaround has many leaders. The media rightfully gives Chris Paul plenty of attention but, general manager James Jones, head coach Monty Williams, and franchise scorer Devin Booker have changed the culture over the past few seasons. A culture change so strong it seems like CP3 changed it overnight.

Phoenix Suns, after "being lengendary," are heading to NBA Finals.

The Suns (51-21) finished the regular season as the 2nd seed in the West. Phoenix’s playoff run includes series victories over the Lakers (4-2), the Denver Nuggets (4-0), and the Clippers (4-2). The Suns’ regular-season record gives them a home-court advantage in the Finals.

Key Stars: Phoenix

In their first Finals appearance since 1993, The Phoenix Suns will rely on 24-year-old shooting guard Devin Booker to lead the way. Booker is averaging 27 points per game in the playoffs and takes the lion’s share of the offensive responsibility for the Suns. Booker has a mid-2000’s scoring mentality (he can score on all three levels and isn’t afraid of the mid-range) and will once again be put to the test against Milwaukee’s defense.

In the Western Conference Finals, Booker shot 38.2 percent from the field while playing through a broken nose. In the Finals and despite Milwaukee’s defense, I fully expect Booker to progress to somewhere around his average playoff field goal percentage of 44.4 percent in this series.

Devin Booker's nose following win vs. Clippers is not what noses are  supposed to look like | Sporting News Canada
Booker after breaking his nose in the Clippers series

Suns’ maestro “Point God” Chris Paul will play in his first NBA Finals in his 16-year career. CP3 has done a great job commanding the Suns since his return from a shoulder injury he suffered in the first-round matchup against the Lakers. Chris Paul will have his hands full with Jrue Holiday on both ends of the floor.

The third key star for Phoenix in this series is big man Deandre Ayton. Ayton has grown before our eyes this season, and is a walking double-double. Ayton’s performance will be the X-factor for the Suns as he will see plenty of time guarding Giannis and the Bucks’ size on the defensive end.

Matchups I’d Love to See: Phoenix

Suns wings on Khris Middleton:

Khris Middleton is the type of player who, once he sees a few shots go in, becomes incredibly hard to stop. However, Phoenix has the athleticism and length between guys like Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder to make things difficult for the Bucks All-Star. If the Suns can neutralize Middleton, the scoring pressure on the rest of the Bucks rises.

Booker vs. P.J Tucker:

I’m unsure of the amount of time we will see these two directly match up, but if there are moments that pit Tucker against Booker, keep an eye out for any extra agitation and physicality. After seeing Patrick Beverley get under Booker’s skin—outside of actually breaking his nose—it will be fun to see tenacious defender P.J Tucker attempt to get in the mind of the young star.

Overall, this NBA Finals matchup is one of the most interesting in recent history as only one player (Jae Crowder PHX) has previous NBA Finals experience.

Game one tips-off at 9:00p.m EST.