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Chris Paul Leads Suns to Game 1 Finals Win

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Jul/07/2021

The door is closing on the career of Chris Paul, the number of opportunities he has to win an NBA championship are dwindling, and he’s playing like a man who knows that. 

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In Game 1 of the NBA Finals he was the best player on the floor, scoring 32 points, dishing out nine assists, and leading the Suns to a 118-105 victory. He hit 12-for-19 from the floor, 4-for-7 from three-point range, and was simply too much for any of the Bucks to handle. 

Historic Night for Paul 

Only three players in NBA Finals history have scored as many as 30 points when aged 36 years or older, with the other two being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan. Paul is also the first player to score 32 points and have as many eight assists in an NBA Finals debut since Michael Jordan did it in 1991.

One more fun fact about Chris Paul’s incredible Game 1: He is now the oldest player in NBA Finals history to score at least 32 points and have nine assists, passing LeBron James for that honor. Paul also now leads the field on the NBA Finals MVP odds board at -200. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo Plays Less Than 100 Percent 

The biggest question for the Bucks heading into the game was the health of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The biggest question heading into Game 2 is if his health will really matter.

He played in the game and looked good at times — even great when he chased down Mikal Bridges for a huge block in the second quarter. It was a play reminiscent of LeBron James blocking Andre Iguodala in Game 7 in 2016. Not as impactful, since that block potentially locked up an NBA title, but every bit as athletic.

It spoke well of Giannis’ knee, but not necessarily his chances of leading his team to a win over the Suns. He finished his NBA Finals debut with 20 points and 17 rebounds and proved that 90% of Giannis is better than most players at 100%. Unfortunately for him that list does not include many of the players on the Suns, who are gelling at the perfect time. 

Supporting Casts Come to Play 

Giannis was limited to just 35 minutes Tuesday night, the fewest minutes he’s played this playoffs in a game that wasn’t a blow out by the fourth quarter. And since that level of use is likely to continue, Khris Middleton must continue to step up and be Milwaukee’s main scorer.

Middleton did that in Game 1, scoring 29 points in 44 minutes of play. The problem is that the Bucks simply don’t have other depth that is consistently reliable. Center Brook Lopez was solid with 17 points in 22 minutes, but he was abused by the Suns on the defensive end of the floor.

Point guard Jrue Holiday was abysmal shooting the ball, hitting just 4-for-14 from the floor and 0-for-4 from three-point range. He finished with 10 points, and no other Bucks player cracked double digits.

Meanwhile on the Phoenix side of the ball, along with Paul’s 32 points, Devin Booker scored 27 in his NBA Finals debut. Scary for Milwaukee is that Booker didn’t even shoot that well on Tuesday, hitting just one of his eight three-point attempts.

Deandre Ayton continued his terrific postseason play with 22 points and 19 rebounds. Phoenix got an additional 14 points from Bridges (in spite of getting blocked by Giannis) and 10 points each from Cameron Payne and Cameron Johnson.

The Bucks primarily get their scoring from four players, while the Suns can go six or seven players deep. And as mentioned in most of the previews, Phoenix doesn’t beat itself. They went to the foul line 26 times on Tuesday and made 25 of them. Milwaukee was just 9-for-16 on free throws. 

Game 2 Preview 

There is little reason to think that Thursday’s Game 2 will go a different direction. Giannis may be two days healthier, assuming the minutes he played on Tuesday didn’t stress his knee. But CP3 and the rest of the Suns will be one game closer to a championship and there is no way they are going to let up.

The Suns enter Game 2 as 5½-point chalk or -220 on the moneyline to win the game, according to the BetUS NBA Finals odds. With their home-court advantage solidified, the Suns also now boast -340 series odds to win the NBA Finals

Everything about that line feels right. This is the Suns’ series unless something big changes.

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