- Mamadou Tall
Milwaukee Bucks Vs. Phoenix Suns 2021 NBA Finals Preview
Updated: Apr 13, 2022
The season is approaching the end. Two teams remain in the quest for the Larry O'Brien trophy. The 2021 NBA Finals have a lot behind them. The storylines, the injuries, the debuts, and the legacies make this one of the more exciting finals.
The 2021 NBA playoffs have been one of the most unpredictable and injury riddled postseasons I can remember. A lot of the early finals predictions have gone to shit. The Milwaukee Bucks versus the Phoenix Suns, who would have thought?
Representing the Eastern Conference this year are the Milwaukee Bucks. For the past three seasons, the Bucks have been in the pursuit of postseason success. Behind two-time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have continuously come up short of reaching the finals. These failures inspired narratives that painted Giannis as a regular-season player and nothing more. Narratives painted coach, Mike Budenhozer, as a coach who couldn't make adjustments when it matters. All those narratives have been slowly going away.
The Bucks this year followed the same course during the regular season. They ended the season as the third seed and went into the playoffs as potential contenders. The shift in the team's makeup came with the acquisitions of Jrue Holiday and Pj Tucker. Holiday is a hard-nosed two-way point guard with experience. Pj Tucker is a hustle player who brings defense, rebounding, and a veteran presence. Both of these players have proved to be crucial additions, especially in the playoffs. Holiday is one of those players who impacts the game no matter how he's playing on the offensive end. You always know what you're getting from him on the defensive end. He is one of the most important players in this series. His matchups with Chris Paul or Devin Booker will prove to be very important for the Bucks on defense.
Aside from Holiday and Tucker, there are familiar faces. Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Brook Lopez. The dynamic between these three has shifted in a good way. Everything happens for a reason and The Bucks found themselves in a situation where Giannis went down with a hyperextended knee in the conference finals. Losing a two-time MVP and defensive player of the year is not ideal for any team in the conference finals. Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Brook Lopez all stepped up to fill the hole that Giannis left on the court. Most specifically, Middleton has made it clear that he is the closer for the Bucks, and Giannis is accepting of that. Middleton averages 23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals in this postseason. The biggest story to me has been the rise of Khris Middleton turning into a reliable closer for the Bucks.
Entering game one, Giannis is questionable to play. With his health in question, Middleton, Lopez, and Holiday have started balling out at the right time. This is their franchises first trip to the finals since 1971, and with this trip they hope to win their first championship since 1971.
Coming out of the Western Conference are the Phoenix Suns. Before this year, the Suns hadn't made the playoffs since 2010. That was all the way back when Steve Nash was the floor general in Phoenix. Fast forward 11 years, fuck just the playoffs the Suns are in the finals for the first time since 1993. The floor general this time is none other than Chris Paul. Chris Paul has been the savior of the Phoenix Suns. His leadership and play have elevated the team to contention in one year, and the job's not done. Young talents such as Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton have been showing that they are here to stay. The Suns being the youngest team out of the two, have little to no postseason experience, and here they are.
Before this season, Chris Paul spent the first 15 seasons of his career continuously coming up short of reaching the finals. 15 years of injuries ruining his chances, whether it be to him or his teammates. Now the tables have turned for CP3. While he dealt with his fair share of injuries, all of his opponents went through the same. The Lakers were down Anthony Davis, the Nuggets were down Jamal Murray, and the Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard. Somehow someway all the stars aligned for the Suns and CP3 this postseason. Pointing to injuries is an easy way to discredit this young team.
During this postseason run, the Suns had games where they didn't have CP3. All of the other pieces showed up. Those other pieces? Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Cameron Payne, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Jae Crowder. In the absence of CP3, Booker along with Payne stepped up to take ball-handling responsibilities and facilitate the offense. The growth of Booker is no more evident than him putting up his first career triple-double in the first game of the conference finals sans Chris Paul. Payne put up a career-high 29 points sans CP3. Add Ayton's improvement throughout the season and pivotal games as the center and you can see this team has talent.
After seeing Chris Paul's 41 point performance in game 6 of the conference finals, it's safe to say that he is on a mission. He waited 16 long years for this moment, I don't see him taking it lightly. Chris Paul's energy and aura should rub off on the team as it has throughout the year. On the NBA's largest stage Chris Paul and the Suns are looking to secure their first-ever championship together.
The result of the 2021 NBA Finals is filled with implications. One franchise is playing for their first-ever championship (the Suns), while another is trying to end a 50-year championship drought (the Bucks). Chris Paul is nearing the end of his career and hopes to capture that elusive ring he has been chasing; Giannis is in the prime of his career and looking to solidify himself as one of the greats. I'm writing all of this to say that it's a tough pick this year.
I have the Phoenix Suns winning this series in 7 games. Like I mentioned earlier, Chris Paul is on a mission to get that ring. He's already one of the game's most intelligent players, so imagine him being able to plan and strategize for a team in the finals. Give CP3 health and a healthy team; he's getting this done. Giannis's injury to his knee will hurt the Buck's, and I don't know if Middleton, Holiday, and Lopez can pick up Giannis's slack . Devin Booker is a poised young player, and on the game's premier stage he will step up in a big way along with Deandre Ayton. This one is tough. Chris Paul captures that ring he's been missing. The Phoenix Suns franchise captures their first-ever Larry O'Brien Trophy. You read it here.