Game 2 of the NBA Finals was a pivotal game in the series. The Phoenix Suns entered the game with a 1-0 lead and looked to take a commanding 2-0 lead before they fly across the country to Milwaukee for Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks looked to even the series at one game apiece before heading home. Unfortunately for the Bucks, the Suns got their way and took a commanding two games to none lead.
Although Phoenix won, it’s important not to overlook their flaws in Game 2. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy the Suns won but I’m also not naive in believing that the Suns played a perfect game. Here are some adjustments Chris Paul and the Suns should make ahead of Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Phoenix Suns Adjustments Ahead of Game 3 of the NBA Finals
Deandre Ayton Needs to be “Dominayton” in Game 3 of the NBA Finals
Deandre Ayton has been an anchor for the Suns all season long and has had an incredible playoff run. But in Game 2, the big man looked like he was uncomfortable and played awkward throughout the game. With 2:20 left in the first half, Devin Booker ran a pick and roll with Ayton. Ayton rolled to the basket but didn’t have a strong finish. Instead, the 6-foot-11-inch 250-pound big man was rejected by Jrue Holiday (who in comparison clocks in at 6-foot 3-inches and 205 pounds).
JRUE. HOLIDAY. BLOCK. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/fPpQMWapEq
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 9, 2021
I’m confident this was just an off night for the big man but if he continues down this path, then the Suns will be in trouble. All of his mistakes tonight create a ripple effect that affects the Suns for the rest of the game. Ayton also needs to play better on the offensive end in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
It’s worth noting that Ayton did a great job at playing defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo. When guarded by Ayton, the two-time MVP has only averaged 13.5 points per game through the two games. That effort shouldn’t go unnoticed, but this is the NBA Finals and players need to be on their “A” game at all times. If the Suns want to compete in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, then Ayton has to return to his “Dominayton” form.
Failure to Rebound
Rebounding was a huge problem for the Suns in Game 2 and must be addressed before Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Usually, the Suns get a majority of their rebounds from Ayton, but with his off night, it allowed for the Bucks to grab 18 offensive rebounds. Allowing that many offensive rebounds is a recipe for disaster and the Suns are lucky that the Bucks were unable to capitalize on their rebounding efforts.
Unfortunately, the Suns are forced to play small ball since their backup big man, Dario Šarić, is out for the rest of the year after tearing his ACL in Game 1. This leaves the Suns with three options, dramatically increase Ayton’s minutes, relay on Frank Kaminsky for much longer stretches, or use their small-ball lineup more. None of these situations are ideal, especially because the Bucks are the best rebounding team in the league, but Coach Monty Williams must figure out which situation is the lesser of all evils.
Driving To The Basket
Phoenix made 20 threes, which is a new franchise record, and rarely drove to the basket. This shooting performance was historical but it would be unrealistic to think that the Suns could replicate this performance. Instead, the Suns should focus their efforts on driving to the basket and getting Ayton involved early.
Phoenix ranks seventh in points scored in the paint and it has been their bread and butter since the opening rounds of the playoffs. Establishing a presence in the paint early in Game 3 of the NBA Finals will allow the Suns to dominant the area for the remainder of the game. It will also increase their second-chance points as Ayton will be stationed under the basket and ready to grab any ball that enters his vicinity.
Looking Ahead to Milwaukee
These next two games in Milwaukee could be a turning point in the series. If the Suns manage to steal a game, they could capture their first championship on the home floor. But if Milwaukee captures both games, the series shifts to a best of three.