The Bucks are one win away from winning their first NBA championship since 1971, but do they have it in them to close the series out? Can Middleton still be effective even though he’s dragging his feet at this point? Will Jrue Holiday prove to be a reliable third option on offense? And will Giannis Antetokounmpo embrace the spotlight and challenge LeBron as the alpha dog of the league? I guess you’ll have to read to find out…..
Before I talk about what the Bucks need to do, I want to talk about what the Suns need to do.
Chris Paul needs to step his game up
CP3 sported a 21-2-11 line in Game 5. You might be saying to yourself, “That’s not a bad game for a 36-year-old who’s been playing for 16 years.” Well, I’m here to tell you that Chris Paul didn’t play well in Game 5. He took his foot off the gas after the Suns had a 16 point lead, almost as if he’s never been on a team that’s blown a large lead in the playoffs (Game 6 of the 2015 Semifinals).
Paul didn’t look right throughout the game. His shoulder and hand injuries from earlier in the playoffs may be coming back to bite him in the ass. He played 35 minutes but sat out a lot of the time while the Bucks were coming back in the second and third quarter. That’s why Chris Paul doesn’t have a ring. He doesn’t have the alpha dog energy and plays hot potato when his team needs him most. I’ll hand it to Chris Paul. He played very well in Game 6 against the Clippers to clinch a shot at an NBA championship. But in the last two games, he hasn’t played well. Whether it’s injuries or his lack of “clutchness” Chris Paul isn’t the person that will win this series for Phoenix. It’s……..
Devin Freakin’ Booker
I never, ever, under any circumstances, want to hear a Kobe Bryant Devin Booker comparison. I get that Kobe is Booker’s idol, but that doesn’t mean he is the next Kobe Bryant. Ask any young player in the league and they will say their favorite player was Kobe Bryant, but that doesn’t make them all the next Kobe Bryant. Booker’s jump shot and style of play are similar to Bryant’s, but his ability to flat out win his team the game when it matters the most isn’t there.
After Jrue Holiday stole the ball from Booker with 18 seconds left in the game I said to myself, “Kobe would never let that happen.” In Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals, Kobe took over after Shaq fouled out in OT, and let the league know who will be owning them for the foreseeable future. Booker let Jrue Holiday steal the ball from him, and let the league know he can be beaten. Nobody thought Kobe could be beaten until the 2004 NBA Finals, more importantly, he didn’t let the league know he could be beaten. Booker might as well have tweeted out to the league saying that he is a total phony that can be beaten by a decent point guard.
You might be saying, “He had 40 points, what else do you want from him.” I want him to be the guy that can win his team a crucial game, that’s what.
I’ll repeat myself so I can make you understand my point, Booker plays like Kobe, no question about it. He shoots like him, his shot selection is similar, he barks at the refs just like Kobe, gets generous calls, yells at coaches, and Booker tries to emulate Kobe’s mamba mentality. But Kobe thrived when the spotlight was on him and had to be the one taking the final shot. Booker embraces the spotlight, but should he be the one taking the final shot?
Is Deandre Ayton on the court?
I would like to file a missing person report. Deandre Ayton hasn’t been seen since Game 1 of the NBA Finals and hasn’t let us know whether he’s alive or not. Ayton had a 20-10-1 game which is a double-double but most of those points didn’t do much to help the Suns. Which you might think is absurd, how could a double-double not help a team much? Let me explain my reasoning, his points didn’t come when they needed him most (the 4th quarter), he didn’t do a good job guarding Giannis and got beat by guards multiple times on the pick and roll.
I talked about Ayton’s lack of presence on the court in my last article, I think I even used the same headline. Much like Booker is idiotically compared to Kobe Bryant, people need to stop comparing Deandre Ayton to Tim Duncan. If Deandre Ayton can’t be a reliable scoring option for the Suns, who can they rely on? Chris Paul might be injured (at least he’s playing like it), Booker can’t be relied on in the clutch (at least when Jrue Holiday is on the court), Crowder is a streaky player (at best). Does Monty Williams really want Mikal Bridges or maybe even Cam Johnson taking the final shot? I don’t think so.
Who will be the guy for the Suns?
Game on the line: who does Monty Williams trust? Booker? Paul? Ayton? I can’t imagine Booker still has the same confidence in clutch situations after Jrue Holiday embarrassed him. Chris Paul cannot be trusted with the game on the line, that’s a pre-established fact. Is Monty Williams going to call the Ayton-oop again? Again, I don’t think so.
If the Suns have the ability to take the final shot and force a game 7, who will be the one taking the shot? If that question comes up for a team, then Suns fans should be worried.
Now I can talk about the Bucks after all my amazing points about why the Suns should be worried about losing to a team from Milwaukee.
Can the Bucks close the series out in 6?
This is a question I’ve gone back and forth on throughout the series, but now I can say with some confidence the Bucks can close this series out in 6 games. I’ve already talked about why the Suns should be worried and after thinking about it for some time I believe the Suns have nobody they can rely on to win the game for them. The Bucks do.
Khris Middleton has already had multiple game-winners in the playoffs and outdueled Booker in game 4. Holiday even though he frustrates me to the point I yell at the TV pleading with him to stop shooting deep threes, he has thick skin and isn’t afraid to take the final shot. Giannis has been beyond great in the Finals and if they only need 2 points to win the game he could easily drive down the lane for an easy dunk/layup. That’s three guys for the Bucks who can take the final shot and/or close out the series. Suns fans I feel bad for you, I really do.
Can Khris Middleton give the Bucks 1 more game?
By the end of Game 5, Middleton was dragging his feet and sweat was dripping off his forehead at a furious pace. I’d be a little concerned if I was Mike Budenholzer on whether Khris Middleton can play effectively even though his stamina is drained.
Middleton won’t, but does have a shot at winning the Finals MVP because of his heroic efforts in the last 3 games. In game 3 he played the role of point guard many times, slashing an 18-7-6 line, in game 4 he outdueled Devin Booker, and in game 5 he made some crucial shots down the stretch to give the Bucks a 3-2 series lead. The Bucks would’ve been swept if it weren’t for Khris Middleton, so should he win the Finals MVP? I think Middleton and Giannis should be co-Finals MVPs, for their efforts.
To answer the question, I do think Middleton can give the Bucks one more solid legacy-defining game. I don’t think Middleton will light up the box score or anything, but I wouldn’t be surprised if late in game 6 he made some clutch baskets to win the game for Milwaukee.
The Jrue Holiday Dilemma
Jrue Holiday might anger me the most out of any player in the league, and I’m not even a Bucks fan. His shot selection makes me sick, he isn’t a true point guard, he continues to shoot deep threes even though he’s a career 35% shooter from downtown. The audacity of Jrue Holiday is all I can say really. He has a lot of confidence in himself which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a bad thing when he shoots 4-20 in an NBA Finals game, but it’s a good thing when he goes off for 27-4-13-3 in a pivotal game. One of his three steals was against Devin Booker with 18 seconds left in the game, and one of those thirteen assists was to Giannis Antetokounmpo for a game-sealing alley-oop.
He shot 12-20 for the game and was 3-6 from three. How can he shoot 4-20 in Game 4, and then shoot 12-20 in Game 5? Some might say that’s the way it is with shooters, they can be inconsistent. I say Jrue Holiday is a huge problem for the Bucks. He will either implode or he will be the best shooter on the floor for Milwaukee. What Jrue Holiday will we see in Game 6? That’s a question I don’t have an answer to.
Is Giannis an alpha dog?
Some might be confused as to what an alpha dog is in the NBA, so let me clarify. An alpha dog is a player nobody in the league can rattle or mess with, he’s a player that every team is scared to face. Right now LeBron James is the alpha dog of the league, but he’s getting older and even though he only got 71 days off before this season started he showed his age. Giannis is a perfect candidate for the new alpha dog position. He has a lot of fierce intensity, he has proved that he can be trusted in important situations, he has stats some players would kill for, and nobody would want to get in a fight with him.
I think that if Giannis plays great in Game 6 and closes out the series for the Bucks he will be the league’s new alpha dog. Move over LeBron, we have a new alpha dog.
Milwaukee has to let the Suns beat themselves, and keep things simple. Mike Budenholzer has to make sure he doesn’t let Mikey Budenholzer out, and Giannis has to make sure he doesn’t choke under pressure. Because then I will look like an idiot. Booker embarrassed himself on the biggest stage of all, how will he respond? Will he embrace the pressure and force a game 7 or will he be content with being a regular-season superstar and an average player in the playoffs? Will Cliff Paul make an appearance in game 6 or will Chris Paul scrap to get that elusive first ring? I guess we’ll find out Tuesday at 9. Wait, 9 o’clock at night?! Why are the games so late, and on a freakin’ weekday! Oy Gevalt!