We may only be two games into the 2021 NBA Finals, but this much is certain — this series is a wrap.
The Phoenix Suns defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in resounding fashion for the second straight game on Thursday night, defeating Milwaukee, 118-108.
The Suns are still two wins away from officially knocking out the Bucks for good, but it’s only a formality at this point — the Suns are the superior team and it’s not even a debate.
We can reach for arguments to believe the Bucks still have a chance in this series.
We can say how they’re going to Fiserv Forum for the first time in this series. We can argue that Giannis Antetokounmpo is just starting to recover from his hyperextended knee. We can even find positivity in the idea that Game 2 was not a “blowout.”
But you’d have to really be “reaching” to believe that this series is anything but over.
Antetkounmpo played out of his mind on Thursday. In fact, he was the best player on the court. If you didn’t know he was a little more than a week removed from a gruesome-looking knee injury, you would think he never missed a game.
The “Greek Freak” lived up to his name, posting a freakish stat line of 42 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks on 15-of-21 shooting. He also scored 20 points in the third quarter, becoming the first player since Michael Jordan to score at least 20 points in a single quarter in an NBA Finals game.
And it still wasn’t enough for Milwaukee — not even close, in fact.
There are several things that are very clear when it comes down to how these two teams match up through just the first two games of this series.
For one, the Bucks struggle in stopping the Suns’ pick-and-roll attack. That was very clear throughout Game 1 as Chris Paul sliced and diced Brook Lopez and multiple other defenders on the way to a game-leading 32 points and nine assists.
It was also the case again in Game 2 any time the Bucks tried to inch closer to the Suns in the fourth quarter.
Secondly, the Suns score easily — while the Bucks appear to have to work twice as hard just to score. Despite Milwaukee’s superiority in the paint — they scored 54 points to the Suns’ 28 points near the basket in Game 2 — the Bucks’ offense is rather ineffective outside of the trio of Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.
In fact, despite scoring 20 points in the paint to the Suns’ zero points in the first quarter, Milwaukee still trailed by three points at the end of the period.
The perfect illustration of the Suns’ superior execution on offense can be seen here on this possession. Despite the Bucks’ extreme effort on defense, Phoenix still managed to score.
It doesn’t help matters when Milwaukee’s 3-point shots aren’t falling — they went 9-of-31 (29 percent) in comparison to the Suns’ 20-of-40 (50 percent) shooting from beyond the arc — and when their go-to player in the clutch, Middleton, is vastly struggling from the field.
The two-time All-Star swingman scored just 11 points on 5-of-16 from the field and posted a game-worst plus-minus rating of -15 in Game 2. In fact, reserve Pat Connaughton scored more points (14) than Middleton.
The Bucks were 27-of-71 (38 percent) from the field on shots not attempted by Antetokounmpo in Game 2.
Third of all, the Bucks have squandered two effective performances by Antetokounmpo — his performance in Game 2 is one of the best individual outputs in Finals history — by losing in resounding fashion in both games.
What exactly does this mean when it pertains to the Bucks’ chances of winning this series?
It means that the Bucks literally need efficient performances from their star trio of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday just to have a realistic chance of knocking off the Suns for even one win in this series.
It’s clear that the Bucks can at least hold their ground and match up somewhat evenly when Antetokounmpo is on the court. Milwaukee posted a plus-three in the plus-minus rating department when the two-time MVP was on the court.
However, they were a minus-13 in the eight minutes when he sat.
That’s literally the difference in this game.
There are many discouraging signs for Milwaukee. One of them being this — not only did the Bucks dominate in the paint in Game 2, they also bested the Suns in most major statistical categories.
That means Milwaukee outperformed Phoenix in the following categories: turnovers, blocks, rebounds, offensive rebounds, steals, fast break points and even fouls committed.
And they still lost by 10 points.
In order to win, the Bucks need to be running properly on all cylinders.
It’s a sign that despite having the best player in this series (Antetokounmpo), and the hottest closer in the postseason (Middleton), the Bucks just don’t have as good of a squad.
While that aforementioned firepower may be enough to steal a game at Fiserv Forum, it won’t be enough to win three more.
Simply put, stick a fork in ‘em — the Bucks are done.