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Basketball

NBA Finals 2021 Preview

Phoenix Suns vs Milwaukee Bucks

Well, here we are again! The eve of the NBA Finals. Both teams had to overcome a lot of adversity to get here, as did the other 28 teams that fell short. The 2020-21 season has been intense for all involved, even us fans! We have all felt the effects of a shortened off-season, a compressed schedule, and obviously, COVID-19.

I was about to say that I’m looking forward to the break this off season, but we aren’t getting one. Once the finals end, we will dive straight in to coverage of the Olympics and Team USA basketball. Yowzers.

Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before the Olympics, we have the NBA Finals and it will be a great one. Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns are looking to complete their Cinderella story. Winning the title will be the first time for the 36 year old Paul, and the franchise first for the Suns, who joined the league in 1968.

Giannis and the Bucks won’t just hand it to them though. This is a Bucks team that has had a lot of regular season success, just to fall short in the playoffs time and time again. The two-time MVP Giannis will be looking for his first title in his quest to bring a championship back to Milwaukee for the first (and only) time since 1971.

2 teams and 2 cities starving for success. Who will come out on top? Let’s look at some key storylines heading into Game 1 tomorrow.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

We all saw the gruesome knee injury sustained by Giannis in Game 4 against Atlanta. Knees aren’t supposed to bend that way. Giannis was clearly in pain and it is always a horrible thing to witness. Injuries are sadly a part of the game, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

When I saw it, I said to Ari that we won’t be seeing him again for this post season. Fortunately, it appears that I was wrong. The general consensus is that there is no major damage and Giannis should be good to go, possibly as early as tomorrow!

I’m not sure if that’s a good idea and I’m not convinced that his injury is as minor as they are claiming. I think they are rushing Giannis back, which is always a bad move. Especially considering how well the Bucks played without Giannis.

I won’t attack Giannis’ gameplay again, I’ve made my thoughts clear. What did surprise me though was how well the Bucks played in his absence. I am willing to go so far as to say that the Bucks are actually a better team without him.

That’s not to say that he is a bad player, but everything runs through him. As it should, he is a two-time MVP and a freak of an athlete. Without him though, everyone else was forced to step up. And they did. We saw incredible performances from Holiday, Middleton, Lopez, Tucker, Portis and even, Pat Connaughton (who made my All-Bubble team, if you remember that far back). Hell, Lopez had a 30 point game!

In Games 4 & 5, without Giannis the Bucks played some of the best ball I’ve ever seen them play. If I was them, I wouldn’t rush Giannis back. Trust the team, they are 2-0 so far. Don’t risk the big man so soon. Especially when you have…

Brook Lopez

Nice segue. I mentioned that Lopez had a 30 point game in the last series, which was huge. 33 points on 78% shooting. Do you know how many triples Lopez had in that game? You’d probably guess 5 or 6. And you would be wrong. 0. Not a single triple by Lopez. All 33 came from (basically) the paint.

What makes Lopez dangerous is his ability to knock down the long shot, unlike a certain Greek superstar. I’m talking about Giannis, in case that wasn’t clear.

Although Lopez has slowed down a bit in the post season, he is still a good long range shooter. Good enough that the Suns will have to treat him as a threat from all over the court. This could be a good series for Lopez.

Especially when you consider that he his only real opponent will be DeAndre Ayton. If Ayton gets in foul trouble or even when he just gets some rest, there is no one that can stop Lopez. Who are you going to send at him? Frank Kaminsky? Pfft. Dario Saric? Don’t make me laugh. No offence, Saric. You got game. Kaminsky can go suck it though. Nobody talks shit about the Cubs.

Chris Paul

CP3 = MVP. He’s the odds on favourite to win the Finals MVP at the moment. If you recall, when he was injured, I said the Suns have no chance without him. I did also point out the fact that the Suns went 8-0 in the bubble without him, so “you never know” as I put it.

Well, it turns out the Suns are pretty damn good. With or without Chris Paul. They took care of business when he was side-lined and continued to do so when he returned. Paul is a basketball savant and this is finally his chance to let it show on the big stage.

Did you see his dominant Game 6 against the Clippers? 41 points. It was an efficient 41 as well. It’s not like he was just jacking up shot after shot (I’m looking at you, Paul George). Paul still got other guys involved, racking up 8 assists on the way. His defence was also up to standard, with 3 boards and 3 steals. It was an all round great performance.

I would be surprised if he scored more than 30 points in a single game this series, but that will not detract from his impact. He can control the game and keeps the Suns calm and collected. If Paul can average around 20/10 the Suns will be laughing.

Devin Booker

I just want to give some love to Devin. The guy is a Phoenix Suns legend. He has stuck it out, losing season after losing season. I have so much respect and admiration for this man.

The playoffs haven’t been great to him recently, which feels weird typing because his box score is still very impressive. I don’t mean to knock him, but his production is down from what you would expect from a player of his calibre.

Honestly, I blame his nose. That was a nasty break (literally) and it isn’t easy to play in such a rigid face mask. Every time he takes it off, he seems to get hit again though! Talk about unlucky. I’ve never seen one person get hit in the face as many times as I have with Booker the last 2 weeks.

I think that he will bounce back in the NBA Finals. I really hope he does. He doesn’t deserve to be known as someone who just along for Chris Paul’s Championship. Real ones know, but the casuals don’t really respect Booker the way he deserves.

Let’s not forget that this kid scored 70 points once. I doubt we will see that in the Finals, but I hope he gets a 40 point game in there. I’m cheering for you, Book.

Prediction

It’s been insanely hard to predict anything, so I’m not going to try to hard. My tip is the Suns in 6 and Paul for the MVP.

If Giannis starts Game 1 though, you could talk me in to the Suns in 4. I truly think the Bucks are better off without him, at least for the first couple games. I think they are in a good rhythm and adding Giannis might throw them off. Also, stop shooting threes, Giannis! Seriously.

I love both teams, but it’s hard to not rally with the valley this time around. Especially with how awesome their half-time shows have been. Jimmy Eat World! The Gin Blossoms! I really want to see Jimmy Eat World play again. They rock. Let’s go Suns!

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