Milwaukee Bucks: 3 key X-factors vs. Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals

Feb 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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Feb 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Feb 10, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

Wake up, the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns will officially square off today in Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals.

This has been a long time coming for both franchises, who are back on the biggest stage for the first time in decades. Milwaukee’s last appearance in the NBA Finals came during 1974, three years after they won their first NBA title. Meanwhile, Phoenix returns to the Finals for the first time since 1993, where they were led by league-MVP Charles Barkley, who will ironically be featured later in this article.

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Both teams have endured hard-fought battles to get to this point, and it should be another tough series ahead for both teams to see which franchise can hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the 2020-21 NBA season.

If the Bucks will come out on top, there are several X-factors currently looming that could make all the difference in this series entirely. With that being said, here are three of them to keep an eye on in tonight’s Game 1 and the rest of the NBA Finals.

Khris Middleton’s consistency will be an X-factor for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals vs. Phoenix Suns

This turbulent playoff run has included many memorable performances for Khris Middleton, but the Bucks All-Star has also had several letdowns. Consistency is oftentimes a word associated with the forward as one night he could shoot the lights out with a heroic and then have a brutal showing the very next game.

The biggest disparity for Middleton is his numbers when playing at home versus playing on the road. When playing at Fiserv Forum – where the Bucks are 7-1 this postseason – Middleton has been great by averaging 23.4 points while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from 3-point range. On the road, his points are around with same with 22.9 per game, but his efficiency has taken a hit by shooting 40.4 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from deep. His turnovers also increase from 2.5 at home versus 3.9 on the road.

Now, that is not to say Middleton cannot perform on the road. He torched the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals by outscoring them by himself in the fourth quarter en route to a 38 point performance. Most recently, Middleton scored 23 points in the third quarter alone of Game 6 versus Atlanta, finishing with 32 points and helping the Bucks advance to their first NBA Finals in nearly five decades.

He has shown that he can indeed perform on the road, and the Bucks will need him up to par as the first two games in the Finals are set to take place in Phoenix. Fans will remember that abysmal two-game start Middleton had on the road versus the Brooklyn Nets in the Semifinals, and the Bucks cannot afford another stretch like that. Although Milwaukee managed to win that series despite going down 0-2, this team would certainly like to avoid having to dig themselves out of another hole like that. A solid start from No. 22 could undeniably help them not just for these first two games but for the entire series.

Middleton has momentum brewing in his favor following his dominant Game 6 effort on the road during the last round, and he must keep it up on the big stage.