As we head into Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Phoenix has a commanding 2-0 lead over Milwaukee. Games 1 and 2 were vastly different, but had the same outcome. The Suns went up big, the Bucks chipped away, but just couldn't get over the hump and re-take the lead. For things to change in Game 3, 2 things need to change.
Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday need to make shots. That's it. Plain and simple.
I wish there was a great complex way that the Bucks could improve and find a way to win. But now that Giannis is healthy, hitting his free throws, and asserting himself, it is up to Middleton and Holiday to find their way as options 2a and 2b.
ESPN's Tim Legler put it well in this clip from "Get Up".
Middleton and Holiday shot a combined 12/37 FG, 2-9 3-PT FG, 2-3 FT in Game 2. They did everything else great, rebounded, assisted, defended; but they can continue to do that while also hitting their shots. I firmly believe Giannis will continue to dominate this series. The rest of these games are all going to look like the 3rd quarter of Game 2 where Giannis scored 20 points and absolutely dominated in every aspect of the game. He can't do it all himself so it is on Middleton and Holiday to step up, don't be scared of the moment. We know they are capable. The 2 of them led the Bucks to wins in Games 5 & 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to get to this point. They have what it takes. Khris Middleton needs to attack the basket and not settle for step-back and fadeaway jumpers. Holiday needs to let the game come to him instead of forcing it like he did in Game 2, taking 11 shots in the first quarter. They both need to play off of Giannis because he will get them more open looks than they could get themselves. Force the defense to help off of them and relocate, cut, or spot-up and let Giannis create.
I haven't spoke about the team that's up 2-0. Chris Paul, Devin Booker and the rest of the Suns have played a great NBA Finals so far. They have done a great job of killing any rally Milwaukee tries to make. Mikal Bridges stepped up in Game 2. Chris Paul was the star in Game 1. They exploited Milwaukee's defensive switching and swung the ball to the point of exhaustion for the Bucks. This play put the first 2 games in a nutshell. A Jrue Holiday turnover followed by a brilliant offensive possession by Phoenix.
Games 1 & 2 have both gone over on the total and the Suns have covered. Game 3 the line has flipped with the series shifting to Milwaukee. The Bucks are favored by 4.5 with the total at 221.5.
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For my personal prediction, I think the Bucks win and cover in this game. They lost by 13 and 10 in Games 1 and 2 respectively. Game 1 Giannis was not himself and Game 2 Middleton and Holiday were not themselves. A decent game by either one of Middleton or Holiday (or both) combined with home-court advantage should be enough for the Bucks to make this series 2-1.