Free Picks: Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 2021 NBA Finals

Suns vs Bucks NBA FInals 2021
Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks, Bucks win Finals 4-2

And there you have it. Against all odds, the NBA was able to finish off the 2020-2021 season despite all of the tribulations involving the COVID-19 virus, especially early in the campaign. It started just before Christmas and ended on Tuesday with a Game 6 win for the Milwaukee Bucks over the Phoenix Suns, earning themselves their first NBA title in half a century. While the postseason was littered with key injuries, these Finals were one of the best and most evenly matched in recent memory.

Series Results (Bucks win Finals 4-2)

There was an unlimited amount of slander directed at the Milwaukee Bucks and especially their top player and leader Giannis Antetokounmpo following an embarrassing five-game loss to the Miami Heat in the second round of the 2020 playoffs in the bubble. Giannis isn’t skilled enough, he can’t lead a team to a ring, he should have left Milwaukee for greener pastures—these were just a few of the lines aimed at the Greek Freak.

He and his team began exorcising those demons in earnest during these playoffs, sweeping those same Heat in four games before taking down the undermanned Brooklyn Nets in a thrilling seven-game duel, and taking care of the Atlanta Hawks in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. After losing the first two games of the Finals in Phoenix, however, it seemed like that run might have all been for naught.

The easy NBA pick at that point would’ve been the Suns, but the Bucks instead shocked the NBA world with four straight wins to close out the Phoenix and lift the Larry O’Brien trophy. Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Pat Connaughton, and PJ Tucker all had key performances during the series, but it was Bobby Portis Jr. that really stepped up alongside Giannis in the closeout game with 16 points on 60 percent from the field off the bench.

Then there was the colossus that was Giannis in this series. The 25-year-old would not be denied on Tuesday night, dropping 50 points, 14 rebounds, and a whopping five blocks to lead his team to victory. The 2021 NBA Finals MVP had two other 40-point bombs during the Finals and finished the series averaging 35.2 points per game on 61 percent shooting from the field to go with 13.2 boards, 5.0 dimes, 1.8 blocks, and 1.2 steals a night.

Now, the slander will turn vengefully on the ring-less legend Chris Paul as well as his young deputy Devin Booker, who disappointingly disappeared in Game 6. The strength of the field in the West when it’s healthy is quite palpable, so it will be hard for this team and its fans not to feel like they’ve just blown their best chance at an NBA title after blowing the 2-0 lead.

Game 1

July 6, Tuesday, Phoenix Suns Arena

(Playoff Betting Record: 42-36, +6.45)

But who will it be? While the Phoenix Suns come into the series as collectively healthy as a yoke of oxen, the Milwaukee Bucks, not so much. They’re pretty much all good except for their main man, two-time NBA MVP and one-time Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will likely be a game-time decision on Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo suffered an ugly hyperextension of his left knee midway through the third quarter of a Game 4 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Greek Freak was ruled out of both Game 5 and 6, and his teammates, led by Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, came up with Ws in both to send the team to the Finals.

There has been chatter that Giannis might have been ready for a possible Game 7 on Monday, but his status remains uncertain at best. However, while the fact that Giannis is Milwaukee’s best player certainly makes this NBA pick a much tougher one, our answer would probably be the same either way.

If Antetokounmpo does play in Game 1, which this writer thinks is a bit far fetched, the Greek Freak will likely be a ways off from 100 percent out there after what happened to his knee. When Giannis was at 100 percent during the regular season he didn’t have problems with many defenders, but luckily for Phoenix, one of the ones that did give him some troubles is their starting center.

DeAndre Ayton has been superb throughout this postseason, and this breakout stretch for the young seven-footer is far from over. He will be crucial in this series against the Bucks, who play with a lot of size and have success when they feed their big men down low or drive to the paint. Ayton’s defensive prowess at the rim will be a huge plus for Phoenix here.

The 22-year-old was impressive against Anthony Davis in round one, he outplayed the MVP in round two, and he managed to remain relevant and productive in the third round against a Clippers team that often played without a traditional five like Ayton. Now, he takes on a team that would ideally start Brook Lopez and Antetokounmpo, both of whom are seven-footers.

While that pair of Bucks are both have size, they could not be more different otherwise. Lopez is a much more plodding presence in the paint, though he overcomes his lack of quickness with surprising athletic ability and touch around the rim. Ayton should have no problem taking care of business against Lopez though, because he’s just the type of big that Ayton specializes in shutting down.

The Greek Freak is another story. Antetokounmpo isn’t very polished down low, but he also has impressive touch, not to mention supreme athletic ability. However, Ayton’s solidity on the defensive block is almost sure to give the jumpy Antetokounmpo pause more than a few times, and when that happens he usually chucks up a three or throws up an ill-advised fadeaway.

The proof is in the pudding here, as Ayton ranked sixth in field goal percentage allowed during the regular season for opponents that defended more than 10 shots from Giannis, according to NBA.com. The Greek Freak went 10-for-24 (just under 42 percent) from the field and jacked up four triples, none of which he hit. He did go 14-for-14 on Ayton’s seven fouls, which seems unlikely to be repeated as Giannis’ free throw shooting issues have recently intensified.

It’s clear that the opposing crowd’s chants counting down Giannis’ free throw routine have affected him, as evidenced by his home and away splits: in Brooklyn, he shot 45 percent and at home against the Nets he shot 52, in Atlanta he shot 38 percent and at home he was draining 75 percent. If he plays these first two games in the desert, those issues at the stripe will definitely assist our top pick on the Suns.

It will be interesting to see how the Suns backcourt handles the tough defenders of the Bucks like PJ Tucker and Jrue Holiday, but if Devin Booker can get craft and figure a way to get quality looks and Chris Paul can get the ball to Ayton early and often—whether in the pick and roll or posting up—the Suns will be looking.

We have to hope that Holiday and Middleton cool off a bit, but the pesky perimeter defending of Cam Johnson, Torrey Craig, and Jae Crowder should help on that front. The only contributing player on either team to reach an NBA finals is Crowder, who’s been to two of the three previous Finals, with the Cavs in 2018 and Heat in 2020.

That veteran experience should help the Suns get comfortable more quickly than the excitable Bucks, who are always liable to self-destruct or come out lethargic when they’re being led by a head coach like Mike Budenholzer. We like the Suns to enjoy home court advantage and cover -6.5 NBA point spread at lovely +100 NBA odds as our best bet of the day in Game 1 of these 2021 NBA Finals.

BET ON PHOENIX SUNS TO COVER -6.5 POINT SPREAD (+100 odds, 888sport)

Game 2 (Suns lead series 1-0)

July 8, 09:00 p.m., Phoenix Suns Arena

(Playoff Betting Record: 43-36, +7.45)

Unlike in their last loss to the undermanned Atlanta Hawks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals when they were blown out of the water right out of the gate, in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns they came out with energy and were competitive through the first 12 minutes of this one. Milwaukee’s last lead of the game, however, came with 3:30 left in the first frame.

The game was tight for most of the rest of the first half, but the Suns eventually took the contest over. They went on a 7-2 run to finish the half and give themselves an eight-point cushion heading into the third quarter, a frame during which they blew the game open with 35 points. They went on a 16-8 run late in the quarter to give themselves a bigger 20-point cushion, which they would need to endure Milwaukee’s return fire in the fourth.

The Bucks went on a little 9-2 run to finish the third quarter and start the fourth, but the Suns just kept responding whenever Milwaukee hit seemingly big three-pointers. After a triple from Cameron Payne gave the Suns another 14-point lead about midway through the final quarter, the Bucks put together a little 7-0 run to bring the game to within a seven-point deficit, the closest they’d been all second half.

But alas, the Suns had another run in them, with Devin Booker hitting a triple followed by a long jumper from Chris Paul to bring it back to a double-digit advantage. The Suns would outscore the Bucks 10-6 in the final five minutes of the contest to close out the W, with Milwaukee making just one field goal (a triple from Pat Connaughton) and their other three points coming on Giannis Antetokounmpo free throws.

Just like in Atlanta, the Phoenix crowd was rudely counting down Giannis every trip to the charity stripe, though he seems to have gotten over the novelty of that, as he went 7-for-12 on Tuesday night after an ugly 38 percent showing in Atlanta last round. And speaking of the Greek Freak, can we believe he’s already playing?

I guess it’s true what they say about some of the most ugly-looking injuries turning out to have very little effect. Antetokounmpo looked spry out there apart from a stretch in the middle of the game where he seemed to have a slight limp after completing an insane chasedown block. He took eight of his 11 shots from inside the paint, but he showed a bit of rust in there, and the 11 shots are the lowest total of the playoffs apart from the 10 he shot in Game 4 against the Hawks, a game which he left about halfway through.

Obviously, he’s got to take his time and be cautious coming back from that injury, but if he’s going to play, he’s going to need to be more dominant and demanding when he gets the ball down-low. He took 12 free throws not just because he’s aggressive in the paint, but because he was unable to get even one and-1 opportunity. Giannis’ struggles around the rim could lead the big man to trying more ill-advised jumpers, which is a reason we like the Suns again in Game 2 with our NBA pick.

How the knee reacts to 35 minutes of game action will be big, but it seems that the Greek Freak will be available for the remainder of the series. The only thing is, this is a guy who is always playing his hardest no matter what, so the coaching staff will have to be mindful of managing him.

On the other side, the Suns’ dynamic backcourt duo combined for 59 points on 50 percent shooting, so the Bucks will need to figure out another way to defend the pair. Taking help from the guy on DeAndre Ayton certainly isn’t an option, as the big man went for 22 and 19 for himself as well. He was cleaning the glass, running the pick-and-roll, and grabbing put-backs. Without Giannis at 100 percent, it’s hard to imagine Milwaukee finding an answer to Ayton.

And let’s not forget that the Bucks lost by double-digits here despite shooting the three at an elite 44 percent while the Suns continued to struggle with just 32 percent. Jae Crowder didn’t even score a field goal, as Phoenix’s superior depth was put on display with Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges stepping in to provide the spark with 24 combined points.

The Bucks will grow into this series at some point, but I have a feeling that it will take a home game with the support of their home crowd to get this team back in their groove. For now, we like the Suns to cover their -5.5 NBA point spread in Game 2 at -104 NBA odds for our best bet of the day.

BET ON PHOENIX SUNS TO COVER -5.5 POINT SPREAD  (-104 odds, 10bet)

Game 3 (Suns lead series 2-0)

July 11, 08:30 p.m., Fiserv Forum

(Playoff Betting Record: 43-36, +7.36)

The Milwaukee Bucks had great energy coming out of the gates in Game 2 on Thursday evening in the desert, but they could not sustain that output and efficiency. Well, check that, no one but the hobbled Giannis Antetokounmpo could sustain the early surge that gave the Bucks a 21-12 lead seven minutes into the contest.

Unfortunately for the Bucks, the Suns did not remain down for long, bouncing back to take the lead with a 14-3 run. The Bucks took the lead back to finish the first frame off, but they would not be holding the lead for much more of this tilt. They went ahead for the last time with just under eight minutes left in the second quarter.

Phoenix wouldn’t quite blow the game open, but they certainly got more comfy after a 15-5 run to finish off the first half and give themselves a double-digit advantage. The lead remained around the 10-point mark for most of the third quarter, not for lack of trying to grow it by the Suns and shrink it by the Greek Freak in an impressive show of individual prowess.

Giannis put up 20 of his team’s 33 points in the third quarter, the most a player has scored in a single Finals quarter in the past 28 years, since Michael Jordan put up 22 in a quarter against none other than the Suns. Antetokounmpo was dominating in the paint while also going 9-for-14 from the charity stripe as he was fouled and hacked without mercy.

His teammates weren’t doing anything to help the cause during the third (and most of the night, to be frank), and the Bucks ended their leader’s historic quarter down just one point less than they were trailing at the start of the frame. The big guy was clearly fatigued in the fourth quarter after carrying his useless teammates all night long, but he still managed to put in 10 of his team’s 30 fourth quarter points, which were matched by Phoenix in a confident closeout quarter.

The way the Suns were able to withstand that 42-point, 12-rebound masterpiece from the former two-time NBA MVP doesn’t seem sustainable, however, which is why we like Milwaukee to get one back with our NBA pick in Game 3. We’re not saying they’re going to comeback and win this series, but they are not going to go down 3-0.

Overall in NBA playoff history, teams that have gone up 2-0 have won 404 of 434 times, or 93 percent. That number drops to 90 percent when you look exclusively at the Conference Finals, and falls even further to 88 percent when you look at the NBA Finals, where teams down 0-2 have won 4 out of 35 instances. It’s unlikely to happen, but if it were to go down, it’s most likely to happen here in the Finals. (Stats courtesy of LandOfBasketball.com)

This is not where the Bucks wanted to be after two games, but they won’t be panicking: they’ve been here before during this postseason. They were down 2-0 to the Brooklyn Nets in the Conference semis, and they were able to come back and win four of the next five games to take the series. They won’t do that again, but our top pick says they will at least start on the comeback trail on Sunday.

It would be crazy to see another 50 percent shooting night from three-point range on 40 attempts as the Suns did in Game 3. That volume almost always means trouble, but the Suns were hot on Thursday night. That’s unlikely to happen again, not to mention a career-high 27 points from Mikal Bridges seems like it was an anomaly.

Phoenix got a role player—as well as some long range sniping—to steal them a game, and if the Bucks want to win the series, they will need to get the same from someone in their supporting cast.

Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were once again awful on the offensive end, shooting a combined 32 percent for 28 points. We would predict both of those guys to bounce back big time after witnessing what their injured leader did to try and carry them to a win in Game 2. The Bucks were unstoppable when they were aggressive and touching the paint on each possession early in the game, and that’s what we’d expect to see more of at home in Game 3.

It’s no secret that the Bucks have been great at home during these playoffs, going 7-1 when they’ve played in Wisconsin during this run to the Finals. Antetokounmpo shoots better from the charity stripe and the role players play with more confidence at home. Pair that with big bounce back performances for Holiday and Middleton, and we like the Bucks to cover a -4.5 NBA point spread at solid -102 NBA odds as our best bet for today.

BET ON MILWAUKEE BUCKS TO COVER -4.5 POINT SPREAD  (-102 odds, 22BET)

Game 5 (series tied 2-2)

July 17, 09:00 p.m, Phoenix Suns Arena

(Playoff Betting Record: 44-37, +7.34)

The Phoenix Suns seemed well on their way to a second 3-1 series lead in as many playoff series, taking a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter of Game 4, but a collapse fuelled by poor decisions and foul trouble (again) allowed the Milwaukee Bucks to claw back thanks to another patented big-time performance from Milwaukee’s second-best player, Khris Middleton.

Middleton had struggled mightily through the first three games, but not so on Wednesday night, as he carried the Bucks with 40 points on 15-for-33 shooting from the floor. Middleton, as he has done several times before in must-win games for his team during the postseason, went nuclear late in the fourth quarter.

Like he did in Games 3 and 6 against the Brooklyn Nets and again in Game 3 in the Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, Middleton did his best work late in the game. This time around, with his team down a pair of points with just over two minutes left in the game, Middleton embarked on his own personal 10-2 run against the Suns, which ended with a 107-101 lead for Milwaukee with just 13.6 seconds remaining.

The final would end up being 109-103 as the Bucks completed a comeback victory that they desperately needed: 35 of the previous 36 teams that took a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals ended up winning the series. Instead of that nightmarish scenario, the Bucks are much more comfy with the series tied at two games apiece.

Neither team played all that well during this contest, as Middleton and Phoenix’s Devin Booker (42 points on the night) carried their respective teams for most of the night. The excitement of the duel was sapped somewhat when Booker was forced to sit for several extended periods because of foul trouble. While the refs clearly missed calling his sixth foul, several of the fouls they attributed to Booker before that were more than questionable.

Just like in Game 3, when big man DeAndre Ayton was held to just 24 minutes because of his own foul issues after putting up his best start of these Finals, the Suns were forced to play without key players in key situations. And Chris Paul having an all-time shocker didn’t help matters either.

The veteran who they call Point God put up just 10 points and seven dimes against five turnovers while shooting just 5-for-13 from the field. The team really needed Paul down the stretch of Game 4, and the 36-year-old did not answer the bell whatsoever. The team had 17 turnovers against Milwaukee’s five, and Paul acknowledged that he played a major role in that in his postgame press conference.

Whatever your opinion of Paul, there’s no doubt that he’s an all-time great, and these types of players respond very well to bad games like this more often than not. I would be shocked if we didn’t see an all-time vintage CP3 performance in Game 5 back at home in Phoenix from the Suns’ leader, which is why we’re taking them with our NBA pick on Saturday.

Booker picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter, forcing him to the bench when he had scored 10 of the team’s 13 points so far in that quarter. He could only stay on the bench for two minutes before he was needed back on the court, proceeding to score eight of the team’s final 11 points in the quarter. An absurd loose ball foul was then called on Booker very early in the fourth quarter, which forced him to the pine unnaturally once again.

He was forced to sit for five straight minutes, which is way more than your best player normally would in the fourth quarter of a tight Finals game. Monty Williams will get into his young guys about being more aware of their foul situation and staying out of that kind of trouble next game. Ayton only had six points, another disappointing performance, so the team will work him into the offensive flow a little bit more to get him going.

The hot shooting of Pat Connaughton and the poor shooting of Jrue Holiday essentially cancelled each other out, so if the Suns can make the adjustments we listed while also keeping Booker cooking throughout the game, they should be able to wrestle momentum from the Bucks and retake the series lead in Game 5.

Giannis Antetokounmpo only had 26 points, but he wasn’t going to score 40 every night. Despite his low point total in Game 4, however, he had a huge impact on the result—not least of which came from a godly block in the final minute—and shot the ball efficiently without turning it over. He did struggle at the foul line going 4-for-8 at home, however, so that’s something to monitor as we head to Phoenix and their hostile crowd.

We like the Suns to bounce back and avoid what would be their first three-game losing streak since the end of January and just their second all season long. We’re taking Phoenix’s -4.5 NBA point spread at lovely +100 NBA odds as our best bet for today.

BET ON PHOENIX SUNS TO COVER -4.5 POINT SPREAD  (+100 odds, 10bet)

Game 4 (Suns lead series 2-1)

July 14, 09:00 p.m., Fiserv Forum

(Playoff Betting Record: 44-36, +8.34)

The Phoenix Suns hung in this game for a good chunk of it, but in the end, they simply did not have enough to get that insurmountable 3-0 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks, who won Game 3 by a score of 120-100. The Bucks made adjustments after losing two straight, so now it will be on Phoenix head coach Monty Williams and his staff to do the same if he wants his team to maintain their lead in the series.

The Suns played well to start the game off, with Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton combining well on the pick-and-roll as Ayton jumped out to 12 points in the first quarter alone. Unfortunately, the game plan of the Bucks was put into action, and it worked to perfection as the team attacked the paint and got Ayton in early foul trouble.

That strategy succeeded in cutting him down to just 24 minutes all game, a playoff low, while committing five fouls for the first time during this postseason run. The 22-year-old seven-footer has been superb throughout this postseason, displaying an affinity for the pick-and-roll as well as surprising touch at the rim and a burgeoning midrange game.

His most crucial impact on the game is not on the offensive side, however. This is evidenced by the Game 2 win in which he only had 10 points but also contributed 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and three steals. Ayton has been a colossus defending the rim and cleaning up the glass, so his extended absence (which is now exacerbated by the loss of Dario Saric to an ACL tear earlier in the playoffs) allowed Milwaukee unfettered access to the paint.

With Ayton sitting on the bench for half the game (he hadn’t played under 35 minutes since Game 2 of the second round during a 25-point rout of the Nuggets) the Bucks dominated the paint 54-40 while also enjoying a large 47-36 advantage on the class, including a big-time 13-6 advantage on the all-important offensive glass. We doubt that Williams will allow those occurrences to be repeated, which is why we like Phoenix with our NBA pick here.

Williams’ small-ball lineup was actually able to cut the Milwaukee lead down to four at one point in the third quarter, but big shots from Jrue Holiday and the continued dominance of Giannis Antetokounmpo without Ayton there to slow him won out in a big way in the end. And speaking of the Greek Freak, he had another historic Finals performance in Game 3.

He put up another 40-point game, this time going for 41 and 13 rebounds on 13-for-17 shooting from the free throw line, his best mark of the entire playoffs by far. All of those free throws going down made a big difference, but it is tough to tell whether that was a fluke or a new beginning for Giannis. I’d expect more success at home in Game 4, but coach Williams will no doubt make adjustments so as to keep Ayton out there and reduce Giannis’ number of trips.

Antetokounmpo shot more free throws than the entire Phoenix team, and while that does seem fishy, it seems a lot less so when you consider that teams have been intentionally fouling the guy all postseason. They wanted him shooting free throws, and now that he’s making them, they will have to play him smarter. Which is not to say they play him soft, because the only way to rattle Giannis is to get legally physical with him.

If they can do that they can force him into more difficult fadeaways, midrange jumpers, and maybe even a few threes if they’re lucky. Meanwhile, that 5-for-10 display from deep for 21 points wasn’t exactly characteristic of Holiday’s performances so far during these playoffs, but his hounding defense on Devin Booker, who was just 3-for-14 for 10 points, has pretty much been his MO.

Despite that, I can’t imagine Booker having a nightmare shooting night like that twice in a row because he’s the type of guy that can get his numbers even with good defense in front of him. Antetokounmpo will not go for 40 in a third straight game, Ayton will have to be much smarter with his fouls, and with an improved performance from Booker on the offensive end and some smarter defending on Giannis, the Suns should be able to bounce back nicely on the road.

Another thing they have to do is get Paul to play like he did early in this series, when he allowed Booker to handle the ball on a good chunk of the possessions so that the latter could get into his rhythm. If the Point God does that, it should help limit his turnovers while also getting the team’s best player back on track.

We are due for a big Khris Middleton game, but from this writer’s perspective, there’s too much moving back the Suns’ way for that to matter. Plus, Middleton likes to save his Hall of Fame-esque performances for bigger situations than Game 4. We like the Suns to win Game 4 as big-time underdogs at lovely +155 NBA odds as our best bet for today.

BET ON PHOENIX SUNS TO WIN  (+155 odds, Betway)

Game 6 (Bucks lead series 3-2)

July 20, 09:00 p.m., Fiserv Forum

(Playoff Betting Record: 44-38, +6.34)

We’ve already had a few classic Finals showdowns during this series, but that Game 5 on Saturday night in Phoenix had to take the cake—so far, at least. It had everything you could ask for from highlight reel offensive displays, exciting defensive plays, big momentum swings, and an ending that will go down in NBA lore.

The Suns started out as one might have expected them to after having lost the last two straight games: hungry and aggressive, which led to a big early lead of 37-21 by the end of the first quarter. In previous years, this Milwaukee team likely would have folded after that kind of adversity, but this is a different group, and the team came out with a purpose in the second frame.

Jrue Holiday has been largely disappointing during these playoffs after Milwaukee forked over a big package to the New Orleans Pelicans for the two-way guard this past offseason. The veteran point guard came out to play on this night, however. He exploded in the second quarter, scoring or assisting on each of the Bucks’ first 14 points in the frame as the team went on a 16-3 run to cut the lead down to three.

The Bucks were able to come out of the first half with a three-point lead on the road. The Bucks kept building on that lead slowly but surely in the third quarter until they had a 10-point advantage heading into the final 12 minutes. The Suns were hanging around, however.

With about three and a half minutes remaining, the Bucks were still up 10. That’s when the Suns made their final push, going on a lightning quick 12-3 run to cut the game to a one-point lead with under a minute left and the ball in Devin Booker’s hands.

Unfortunately, this might’ve been one of the only moments during this game where Book shouldn’t have had it, because he ran into a wall, and Holiday snatched the ball right out of his hands. Holiday then tossed a lovely lob up to Giannis Antetokounmpo on the ensuing fast break. Giannis made it and was fouled, and upon missing his free throw, rebounded it himself and passed it to Khris Middleton, who hit the dagger from the charity stripe.

It was a surprising and impressive burst of will and desire from the Bucks after getting punched in the mouth late in the game with that 12-3 run, but they couldn’t have played better. Both sides shot the ball very well (Milwaukee 57 percent, Phoenix 55) and were lights out from deep (Bucks were 50, Suns were 68) while not committing too many turnovers.

I could be wrong, but after a win like that I can see the Bucks taking a bit of a breath, which would allow this fuming Suns team to come back out in Game 6 and get the job done for the first time since Game 2, which is why we like Phoenix with our NBA pick here.

The fact that they lost despite a 40-point effort from Booker is alarming, but when you look at the other side, you see some anomalies as well. The trio of Giannis-Middleton-Holiday have not all been on the same page offensively at all during these playoffs—except for in Game 5. It was the first time during this postseason that all three put up 20+ points on 50+ percent from the field, which would lead one to believe that one of them is headed for an off night in Game 6.

Apart from that, the Suns will need to look to their bench for a little bit more help while also hoping that Pat Connaughton—who shot the three at 37 percent during the regular season and 36 percent in the first three rounds of the playoffs—finally crashes back down to the earth: the sixth man has averaged 3.0 triples a game on 50 percent efficiency during these Finals for the Bucks.

The Suns will need one of their role players to show up like Pat did in Game 5, or else they could be in trouble. Luckily, Cam Payne, Cam Johnson, and Jae Crowder are exactly the type of guys that can take that challenge on.

We’d expect this series to go the distance here with a Suns win on Tuesday night. If the Suns can play with the same kind of offensive efficiency they had in Game 5 without relying so heavily on the three, give some more intensity on the defensive end, and make sure they keep their top two guards out of foul trouble (Booker and Chris Paul both had five fouls in Game 5), the Suns should be able to pull this off.

Giannis has been a colossus and by the far the best player during this series, nearly turning this doubter into a believer (but not quite yet), but after him, I like the Suns roster a lot more and they’ve got a huge advantage in the coaching department as well. Phoenix are big time underdogs after the three straight losses, so the value on their +172 NBA odds moneyline was just too good to pass up as our best bet for today.

BET ON PHOENIX SUNS TO WIN  (+172 odds, 22Bet)

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Alex is an alumnus of Ryerson University's RTA Sport Media program, a contributing NHL, NBA, and MLB writer in the BetPicks.ca team. He has been writing on sports, betting, and fantasy contests for several years, including pitstops as an NFL Editor for theScore and as one of the lead NBA news writers for fantasy sports site FantasyPros. As a lifelong athlete, bettor, and sports fan, Alex is uniquely qualified to help you reach the sports betting success that you've always dreamed of and your wife never believed you could achieve. Follow Alex on Twitter

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