The 2020-21 NBA season began its final stretch with Game 1 of the NBA Finals starting Tuesday night. The Milwaukee Bucks met the Phoenix Suns in Phoenix after only three days of rest. Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo lost a couple of days of rest, with the Finals schedule being moved up a couple of days. A near-game time decision, Antetokounmpo was cleared to play a few hours before tipoff. In his first game since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Giannis finished with 20 points, 17 rebounds, and four assists in his Finals debut. At the free-throw line, he went 7-12, with the Phoenix crowd throwing him off as many crowds have during the playoffs.
With Antetokounmpo’s performance unclear going into Game 1, the Bucks looked to Khris Middleton to carry the load. Middleton led all Bucks players, finishing with 29 points, in addition to seven rebounds and four assists in his Finals debut. Although he did not put on the performance he put on in Game 6 of the ECF, Brook Lopez contributed 17 points while Jrue Holiday contributed another 10. Besides those four players, the team did not see any other players contribute 10 or more points, with Bobby Portis falling off from Games 5 and 6 of the ECF, PJ Tucker focusing more on defense, and Coach Budenholzer tightening his rotation for the Finals.
On the other side of the court, the Phoenix Suns saw promising performances from multiple players in their NBA playoff debuts, with Chris Paul and Devin Booker leading the way. Paul led all scorers with 32 points, along with nine assists and four rebounds. Devin Booker added another 27 points, two rebounds, six assists, and three steals. The Suns also saw good contributions from Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, who dropped 22 points and 14 points, respectively. In addition to his 22 points, Ayton finished with 19 rebounds. On the bench, the team got 10 points each from Cameron Johnson and Cameron Payne.
While the Suns had a great game on Tuesday night, they announced bad news Wednesday afternoon. The team announced that Dario Saric suffered a torn ACL after going down early in the game. While he was able to limp off the court, he was helped to the locker room. With Saric out, the Suns will most likely look to Frank Kaminsky to play backup minutes at the center position. Kaminsky has not played significant minutes during the playoffs, playing only four minutes on Tuesday night. Prior to Game 1 of the Finals, the last time Kaminsky played was Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals, almost a month ago.
With Game 2 taking place tonight, one wonders how Coach Bud will adjust his lineups and playing time. One may also wonder if fans will see Giannis at 100% at any point in the Finals. While his performance on Tuesday was good, Giannis will have to step up even more if others cannot produce. If the Bucks were to lose Game 2, the team have their backs against the wall heading home to Milwaukee for Game 3.
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