Bucks at Suns Game 5 Pick: Phoenix Suns -4 (-110)
We’re back to square one in the 2021 NBA Finals. After a stirring come-from-behind victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night, the Milwaukee Bucks have evened the series with the Phoenix Suns at two games apiece. The scene will now shift back to Phoenix for Game 5 on Saturday night.
They say a playoff series doesn’t truly begin until the road team wins a game. Well, we’re still waiting for this series to begin. The Suns swept Games 1 and 2 on their home floor before the Bucks held serve in Games 3 and 4 in Milwaukee. The Bucks’ odds to win the title have improved to +135 at BetOnline, but Milwaukee is going to have to win at least one game on the road if they are to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of this. Two of the last three games of the series will take place in Arizona.
Returning home should do the Suns some good. Phoenix is 35-11 this season at home, including playoffs, and they won each of the first two games of this series by at least 10 points. Milwaukee was able to make some much-needed adjustments at home, but oddsmakers like the Suns to bounce back on Saturday. BetOnline has the Suns favored by four points in a game with an over/under of 218.
Chris Paul’s arrival via trade last summer changed everything for the Suns. Not only did his acquisition give Devin Booker the best backcourt running mate he’s ever had, but Paul’s leadership skills and ability to control the game have proven to be invaluable for such a young team.
However, Paul didn’t look like himself on Wednesday night. The future Hall-of-Famer committed five turnovers, including a particularly crucial giveaway with 30 seconds to play that led to a game-clinching bucket for the Bucks. Paul has struggled with the length and strength of Jrue Holiday over each of the last two games. Since erupting for 32 points in Game 1, CP3 has seen his point total diminish with each passing game.
Phoenix lost the turnover battle 17-5 in Game 4, which may have ultimately been the difference in the game. Phoenix also got some uncharacteristically undisciplined defending out of Devin Booker, who had to miss much of the fourth quarter after picking up his fifth personal foul early in the game. Booker was the Suns’ only reliable source of offense all game long, so his time on the bench proved costly.
Foul issues plagued the Suns in both games in Milwaukee, with Deandre Ayton being held to just 24 minutes in Game 3. Obviously, having your best players on the floor is of the utmost importance in a playoff series. The Bucks’ stars have avoided foul trouble in this series, which hasn’t been true of the Suns.
The Bucks couldn’t afford to drop either of their two home games to risk falling into a massive deficit after going 0-2 in Phoenix to begin the series. Milwaukee blew the doors off of the Suns in a 20-point shellacking in Game 3, while they had to show more resilience in Game 4. Clutch shot-making from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Pat Connaughton helped to propel the Bucks’ comeback 109-103 triumph in Game 4.
Despite playing through a knee injury, Antetokounmpo has been the best player on the floor for most of the series. The Greek Freak has been relentlessly attacking the basket since Game 2 without settling for perimeter jumpers. Given his sketchy jump shooting, an aggressive Giannis is clearly the best version of Giannis.
His most impactful play in Game 4 came on the defensive end, however. After a bucket from Middleton put the Bucks to up by two points with 1:30 to play, Antetokounmpo stuffed Ayton on an alley-oop that would have tied the game. Middleton scored again following Paul’s aforementioned turnover a couple of possessions later to put the game on ice.
The Bucks thrived off of the energy of their home crowd, but they haven’t found much success in the desert to this point. Middleton and Holiday were very quiet offensively in Games 1 and 2. If the Bucks are going to march into Phoenix and come away with a win, Antetokounmpo’s supporting cast will have to show up in a big way.
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Home-court advantage has meant literally everything in this series to this point. So, perhaps it’s not surprising to see sports bettors heavily favoring the Suns in Game 5. A whopping 74 percent of bets that have come in on this game have gone to the Suns -4, along with 88 percent of the money wagered.
With a little more focus, Phoenix could have easily come away with a win in Game 4. The Suns led for most of the night, only to let the lead slip away late. Middleton and Holiday have struggled mightily away from Fiserv Forum in these playoffs, though Middleton has shown a knack for stepping up his game later in series.
Despite his recent struggles, it’s hard to imagine Paul continuing to play this poorly. The Bucks have thrived more by revving up their pace, but I would expect Phoenix to dictate the tempo of Game 5 on their own home floor. I like the Suns to get back into the win column on Saturday night by covering the four-point spread.
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