The Phoenix Suns looked to jump into a quick series lead after a few days worth of rest against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns did just that with monster debuts from Chris Paul and Devin Booker, beating the Bucks with a final score of 118-105 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Giannis Antetokounmpo was in the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a hyperextended left knee.
Phoenix Suns Win Game 1 of NBA Finals
The Bucks hit the board first with a Brook Lopez bucket, followed by back-to-back two’s from Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton to give their team a quick 7-4 lead. However, that would be the Bucks’ highest lead in Game 1.
Despite a competitive first half, the Suns did not look back. Booker rallied the valley early with an alley-oop to Mikal Bridges and a layup from Deandre Ayton. This gave the Suns their first lead with 8:50 left in the first quarter. Milwaukee battled with solid ball movement to open lanes for Middleton and Lopez’s 3-point shooting. However, Cameron Payne’s three extended the Suns’ lead to four and ended the first quarter up 30-26.
A few pointers that stood out were the Suns consistently switching from man to the traditional 2-3 zone when Antetokounmpo was on the floor after a break. This was to slow the Bucks’ ball movement and force them to shoot from behind the arc, a weakness they’ve had all season. Middleton started 2-for-7 on the field while Jrue Holiday also had a slow start. He ended up finishing 4-for-14 from the field. The second quarter started off strong for both teams, with the Suns scoring first off of a Cameron Johnson three at the 10:23 mark. Middleton bounced back by scoring double digits in the second quarter to help his team remain in the game.
However, veteran point guard Paul began to heat up with his first basket in his sweet spot, the mid-range 15-footer. After Holiday cut the Suns’ lead to three, CP3 bounced back with another mid-ranger, followed by a Booker bank shot off the Lopez pick-and-roll switch. Paul followed back-to-back Middleton baskets with a tie-breaking three. Bridges ended the first half with a three to make it 57-49.
The second half was simply all Suns in the valley. Paul instantly opened up the half with another mid-range two and Antetokounmpo hit a wide-open three two minutes later. However, Paul followed up his opening bucket with a four-point play and continued to excel off the pick-and-roll. By the halfway mark of the third, four Suns were in double figures, with the point guard as one of them. Paul continued his hot streak by scoring eight consecutive points with a 3-pointer, crossing up Bobby Portis for an easy layup, and hitting another three.
Despite a few highlight-worthy plays from Middleton and Lopez, who finished with 17 points, Paul’s electric performance was too much for the Bucks. Milwaukee trailed 92-75 at the start of the fourth quarter. However, they did go on a slight surge after back-to-back baskets from Payne. Bryn Forbes knocked down a key three to cut the Suns’ lead to nine. On the next possession, Antetokounmpo scored a putback layup to trim the Suns’ lead to seven, but that was the closest Milwaukee reached.
A Booker three brought the Suns’ lead back to 10 points and Paul later stole the ball from Middleton, then hit a mid-range jumper to make the score 106-94. Phoenix never looked back as they capped off the monster 118-105 win with baskets from Deandre Ayton, Paul, Booker, and Johnson.
Top Performers of Game 1 of the NBA Finals
Paul made arguably one of the best Finals debuts and performances of all time, finishing with 32 points (half from the third quarter) and nine assists. Despite Jae Crowder being the only player on both teams with Finals experience, no Suns’ player seemed to have any first-game jitters. Booker finished with 27 points, while Ayton had a double-double (no, not the burger) with 22 points and 19 rebounds.
Middleton stood out for the Bucks, finishing with 29 points, while Antetokounmpo had 20 points and 17 rebounds, but did not have much help outside of Lopez’s 17. Holiday only finished with 14 points, which is unusual as he has been dominating with and without Antetokounmpo. However, look for him and Portis to bounce back in Game 2.
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