Game One of the NBA Finals is in the books featuring complete dominance for the Phoenix Suns. Chris Paul took over in the second half and secured the first Finals victory of his career. Now the Milwaukee Bucks take a 0-1 deficit for the third time this postseason. While there were promising moments that the Bucks can build upon later in this series, there were too many glaring issues that need to be addressed before Game Two.
Giannis needs to be more involved despite not being 100%
In his limited minutes, Giannis Antetokounmpo looked like he hadn’t lost a step. It was extraordinary that the two-time MVP, at times, looked like the strongest player on the court despite his knee hyperextension last week. Antetokounmpo was bullying DeAndre Ayton in the paint and even striding down the court for a chase-down block reminiscent of LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Giannis looked great; the only issue is he took just eleven shots the entire game, with only four in the second half. Eleven field goal attempts are his lowest number of attempts all postseason other than Game Four of the Conference Finals, where he had injured his knee. Giannis must be more involved in the offense moving forward. Yes, Antetokounmpo is not 100% healthy, but the Bucks don’t have many other consistent options to turn to offensively as it’s a rare occurrence for Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to both shoot well on the same night. Getting Giannis more opportunities should be an emphasis in Milwaukee’s future game plan.
Chris Paul torched Milwaukee in pick-and-roll situations, his primary victim being Brook Lopez. When Lopez would drop back during screen-and-rolls, it gave Paul free reign anywhere in the mid-range. Even when Lopez attempted to step up on CP3 after a standard switch off the screen, Paul would drive right by or could throw the ball to Ayton in the paint against a smaller defender. This is the main issue with the Lopez-Ayton matchup.
Don’t be surprised to see Antetokounmpo defend Ayton at some point this series, with Lopez switching on to Jae Crowder. Putting Giannis on Ayton would create a much more difficult situation for Paul in the pick-and-rolls and would force more challenging shots off screens. Lopez is too valuable offensively to be taken off the floor, and the Bucks will gladly take on a screen-and-roll with Crowder as he doesn’t pose a considerable rim running threat. This lineup change should help Holiday stay in front of Chris Paul fighting through screens or have Antetokounmpo switch on to him during a screen.
The difference in Free Throw Attempts
The foul calls from the officials were certainly not going the way Milwaukee had hoped. The Bucks were outshot from the line 16 to 26, with Devin Booker making all ten of his free throw attempts. Khris Middleton, who took 26 shots, had zero free throws in Game One.
“It’s tough,” Middleton said on his lack of foul calls. “Can’t try to wait for the officials to bail me out. Just try to be strong with it. If they call a foul, they call a foul. But lately, they haven’t, so I just have to play better, be stronger.”
Giannis led the team in free-throw attempts with twelve, but only two other Bucks players attempted a free throw. The Bucks shot a combined 9-16 from the line. Some calls may not have gone Milwaukee’s way, but only having three players shooting free throws the entire game shows a lack of aggression. The Bucks sorely need more intensity out of the gate in Game Two.
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