The Suns’ take care of business and get a 118-105 victory over the Bucks on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Chris Paul got what he wanted. When he wanted it. In this first quarter, he missed his first couple of shots. But it didn’t matter because Devin Booker was cooking. He got what he wanted it too, scoring 12 points to open up the game. But Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t too far behind. Giannis had 8 points of his own and the Bucks trailed closely behind 26-30.
“Their pick-and-roll game is tough to guard,” Budenholzer said. “I think we have to just keep getting better. We have to keep looking at the film and see how we can maybe take away some of the rhythm, or make it where he’s not getting into his spots as easily. That will be a big part of looking between Game 1 and Game 2.”
Paul started to heat up in the second quarter, scoring 11 points. Deandre Ayton did damage with 10 points and 8 boards. The Suns extended their lead 49-57 at halftime.
Paul turned up the intensity in the third quarter, scoring 16 points. He finished the game with 32 points and nine assists. Paul has now scored 73 points in a back-to-back game situation.
“I mean, he just understands how to score the ball, but he also understands where everybody else is on the floor,” said Williams about Paul. “I thought the pass that he had to DA for a finish at the basket was signature Chris. He had been scoring and managing the game, and then as soon as they blitzed, he hit DA and we got a layup.”
“But to answer that question properly, I mean, I would be here all day. He’s just a really good basketball player. He’s one of those rare guys that can see the floor and he knows where all five guys should be. He took advantage of his opportunities tonight versus their switching defense and thankfully he made shots.”
Near the midpoint of the fourth, The Bucks cut the score to seven before Paul found Booker for a 3-pointer, stole the ball from Middleton and hit a jumper to extend the lead 106-94.
Deandre Ayton dominated with 22 points, and 19 rebounds. “I sat in the background during DA’s press conference right now,” said Paul. “Just seeing him talk, just seeing the maturity in him not only as basketball player but as a person. Everybody doesn’t get a chance to know him off the court, but he has the biggest heart. One of the best guys you’ll ever meet. So the success and the recognition that he’s getting right now is well deserved, and I couldn’t be happier for another guy on our team. Not even you, Book.”
Mikal Bridges gave the Suns 14 points, and Cameron Payne chipped in 10 points. Cam Johnson finished with 10 points, 2 steals, 2 assists, and 3 rebounds off the bench.
“I thought he was great,” said Williams of Cameron Johnson. “His ability to space the floor and shoot the ball is what you tend to think about with Cam, but I thought his defense was really good tonight. He’s a big, strong defender, and he has the ability to move his feet and keep guys in front. At 6-9, to move his feet like that — there’s times when Giannis is coming at you full speed. There’s really no answer for that except to take the hit and try to keep him from getting to the basket. I thought he had some really good possessions tonight on that side of the ball.”
“And then his ability to score, space the floor, attack the basket, he’s just a really good player.”
The key differences in this ballgame: fastbreak points and free throws made.
The Suns had 20 fastbreak points. Williams contributed that to good defense and good effort on the glass. “Getting stops and DA rebounding the ball,” said Williams. “I mean, he had 17 defensive boards, and that allows for us to get out and run. I thought our guys were intentional about making plays for someone else. Even if you didn’t get the ball by running the floor, the floor was spaced, and so we were able to attack paint or play hit-ahead.”
“They’re a good defensive team, so any time you can get easy buckets, it really helps you.”
The Suns also were near perfect from the free throw line, shooting 96.2% free throw percentage (a miss by Jae Crowder). Milwaukee shot 56.3% from the stripe (Giannis shot 7-12). Budenholzer talked about the advice he gives Giannis about making his free throws.
“My advice to him is always get there, get to the free throw line, keep attacking,” said Budenholzer. “The more he does something, the better he gets at it. I thought he shot the free throw as far as the eye and the way it came off his hand and the way it looked, I think he’s in a good place at the free throw line.”
The Bucks will be looking to bounce back in Game 2 of the NBA Finals that will take place July 8th at 9PM ET on ABC.