Game 1 of the NBA Finals is in the … actually, I’ll let Devin Booker take this one:
When I’m trying to look smart pic.twitter.com/yLyWQCNN0r
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) July 7, 2021
• The first half was a back-and-forth affair that offered pretty much everything a basketball fan could want in a series opener. Both teams played with an immediate sense of urgency, the crowd sounded ready to punch anyone in the face due to pure adrenaline, and the stars were producing at a high level. Most impressive was the look of 2x MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Despite suffering a scary hyperextended knee on June 29th, the Bucks superstar took the court last night with no hesitation. It surely gave Bucks fans a huge sigh of relief, and it should have given Suns fans a tiny lump in their throat. Emphasis on *tiny.*
Giannis is incredible pic.twitter.com/sbT4qXftA6
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) July 7, 2021
• Phoenix still managed to take complete control of the game in the 3rd quarter. Chris Paul led the way with 16 points to help the Suns win the frame 35-27. He scored 21 of his 32 total points in the second half, abusing the Bucks bigs in switches by sinking 8 of his 11 shots from the field. Meanwhile, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton both finished the night with 27 and 22 points, respectively. The two went a combined 16-16 from the free-throw line.
• As the Suns took over in the second half, the dialogue online largely turned to the Bucks’ poor individual defense. And while it is fair to gripe about certain rotations or missed assignments, they were simply following the game plan. The Bucks went into last night with a plan to switch everything. Naturally, that is going to lead to instances where guys like Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez find themselves on Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The Bucks were hoping that these two would simply miss more shots. To their credit, Jae Crowder shot a dismal 0-8, Mikal Bridges went 5-13, and Booker did shoot an underwhelming 8-21 from the field (but he more than made up for it with a 10-10 performance from the free-throw line).
• I think what Mark Schindler pointed out here is right on the money. A guy like Lopez should not get bashed for his “trash perimeter defense.” After all, Lopez is not supposed to be an elite perimeter defender. The Bucks opted for this scheme and the Suns abused it. Remember when Bulls fans were hating on Wendell Carter Jr. in drop coverage? This situation is similar. The problem was not that Carter Jr. was getting cooked every night by mid-range jumpers, it was that the Bulls defense called for him to fall that low to protect the rim.
The Suns went for the CP/Ayton PnR to force the switch and it was a lot more about what it opened with rim protection drawn out, not some massive advantage on the perimeter
Ayton's gravity at the rim with Tucker on him created signifcant problems
That's on scheme, not on Brook
— Mark Schindler (@MSchindlerNBA) July 7, 2021
• In other words, the Bucks decided to live with allowing certain opportunities, and the Suns took advantage of those opportunities. Now, it’s Milwaukee’s job to adjust. I expect we see some different matchups in Game 2, with my eye specifically on more Holiday vs. CP3. The Bucks also need to stop these soft switches and try to face guard the shot-makers. One way to do this will be by playing more of that smaller lineup we saw with Antetokounmpo at the five. While I like what Lopez offers at times, taking him off the floor for those longer stints should allow for much more defensive versatility, which the Bucks need against this already-small Suns squad.
• The Bucks were as bad as the Bulls at getting to the free-throw line last night.
Phoenix has the edge over Milwaukee tonight in:
Points off turnovers (16-10)
Fast break points (20-16)
Free throws (22-22 for PHX; 7-12 for MKE)
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) July 7, 2021
• I do not believe there is a single soul inside the NBA league office that believes the current logo is better than any of the ones below. Hell, if the YouTube TV sponsorship is so important … put that in freakin’ cursive too! WE WANT CURSIVE!
The trophy on the court is one thing but that cursive finals logo was so clean pic.twitter.com/oj5BYaj8HP
— Jasmine (@JasmineLWatkins) July 6, 2021
• This was already the expectation, but these fresh comments from Silver hammers it home.
Speaking at his pre-NBA Finals news conference, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said it's his expectation that the play-in tournament will continue next season.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) July 7, 2021
• I’m all here for the play-in tournament. While I really hope the Bulls can play themselves into the first-round without it next season, I do like that it offers a security blanket to late-bloomers. Some teams might have injury trouble or chemistry issues before turning it on later in the year. Those teams should be given a chance (i.e. the Wizards). Likewise, those No. 7 or No. 8 seeds that are holding on by a thread should have to prove themselves. I get that we might run into a situation where a far and away better No. 8 seed is playing an unnecessary game, but then shouldn’t that far and away better No. 8 seed should be able to easily take care of business?
• Oh, I also love the competitive edge the play-in tournament creates during the regular season. Who knows if the Bulls go grab Vucevic without the tournament existing?
• This image gives me SO MANY FEELS.
Two of the best shooters in Bulls history 🎯
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) July 6, 2021
• A thing of beauty.