“Our group knows what's at stake. We know what's on the line, so there's no shortcutting it. We're in it right now, and we have to figure it out and we have to get it done.”
Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns have talked about embracing the situation they find themselves in heading into Game 6. That situation is the first elimination game this team has faced all postseason. The last time they even trailed in a series was in the first round against the Lakers, and then they rattled off nine straight wins. Only two more are required, and as Monty Williams said, all they have to do is get one and force the Bucks back onto a plane.
If the Suns win Game 6, it’s because:
They moved the ball. They played with pace. When they do that and get everyone involved, that’s when the Suns are at their best. Booker has been really good, and the only consistent player for the Suns recently, but the Bucks seem content with letting Booker score, so long as it doesn’t open up shots for other players. Booker said he’s just reading what the defense gives him, but the Suns need to find a way to get the ball moving more and generate more threes. They shot 68% from the perimeter in Game 5, but they only attempted 19 three-pointers. That is way down from the 37 attempts they averaged in their two wins this series.
If the Suns lose Game 6, it’s because:
Chris Paul wasn't the dominant closer we’ve known him to be and DeAndre Ayton continues to be an afterthought offensively. I think Ayton has played well defensively the last couple of games against Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Suns need Ayton to play with the type of force we’ve seen from him on offense in prior series. If they get Ayton going in the pick and roll on offense, that will open up space for the Suns' shooters. Paul is the key to getting that started and he’s going to have to take care of the basketball, which has been a big struggle this series. I don’t think the Bucks will shoot lights out again, but their big three have played at such a high level. Ayton and Paul need to step up and help Booker, otherwise, they’re going to watch the Bucks celebrate an NBA title.
I’m having a hard time picking a winner tonight. To think the Suns, as consistent as they have been all year, could lose four straight games in the NBA Finals is hard to imagine. Milwaukee has all the confidence and momentum in the world, but maybe the anticipation of a giant celebration in front of their fans will lead to a shaky start and the Suns can pounce on the opportunity. What scares me about that, however, is the Suns have jumped all over the Bucks before and they seem unfazed. Whether it’s Giannis going off, Khris Middleton hitting every midrange jumper, Jrue Holiday controlling both ends of the floor, or the supporting cast like Pat Connaughton or Bobby Portis hitting big shots when called upon, there aren’t many dents in their armor right now.
It pains me to say it, but I think the Bucks close it out tonight in a tight game. Suns fans, the good news is I’ve been wrong the last two games, so let’s hope I stay ice cold.
Prediction: Bucks 113, Suns 110