How the Milwaukee Bucks are stymying Chris Paul in the NBA Finals

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 14: (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 14: (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

By hook or by crook, the Milwaukee Bucks have evened up the NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns at 2 games a piece.

It took an all-time victory in Game 4 that saw the Bucks outlast the Suns 109-103 for Milwaukee to do so, but they have erased their 2-0 deficit now as the series heads back to Phoenix for Game 5. They been able to do in part by keeping Suns superstar guard Chris Paul increasingly in check over the course of this series.

More from Bucks News

Paul imprinted his presence in his first NBA Finals series by powering the Suns to their Game 1 victory over the Bucks with 32 points on 12-for-19 shooting (4-for-7 from three) and nine assists. Life, however, has been tougher for Paul as the series has gone on.

The biggest adjustment regarding Paul from his Game 1 performance is that he’s seen a considerable amount of time with Jrue Holiday covering him. That switch has led to Paul’s effectiveness and impact steadily dwindling as the series has gone on, all of which peaked in Milwaukee’s Game 4 win Wednesday night where the future Hall of Famer finished with 10 points on 13 shots, seven assists and five turnovers.

Just how are the Bucks disrupting the rhythm of a patient, collected point guard such as Paul as this series goes on?

Milwaukee Bucks have found the answers towards slowing down Chris Paul

For one, turning Holiday loose on Paul has paid great dividends for the Bucks. That may sound ridiculous, especially when you consider that Paul has scored 34 total points on 14-for-18 shooting from the field and is a perfect 6-for-6 from deep across the 78.6 partial possessions that Holiday has seen time on Paul across this series, per

However, the key stat to draw from over Holiday’s time matching up on Paul is the fact that the sure-handed guard has record nine assists that have been paired with seven turnovers, which has been a root of the 17 total turnovers Paul has generated. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton noted that the 15 turnovers that Paul has had from Games 2 to 4 in the series are the most he’s had in a playoff series since 2012.

It’s the combination of Holiday’s hounding of Paul along with the Bucks’ help defense that has increasingly been in lock-step with everyone on the floor that has disrupted Paul’s masterful handle of the Suns’ offense.

Just rewatch this exceptional defensive highlight from Antetokounmpo that pokes the ball away from an out-of-control Paul that comes as a result of Holiday picking up Paul from 94 feet, just as he has increasingly done this series.

It may have come after Antetokounmpo’s extraordinary block on Deandre Ayton nearly a minute before, but that swipe was as monumental to the Bucks completing their comeback and evening up this series against the Suns. Even Paul owned up to that costly miscue late and over the course of Game 5 as he talked about after the Suns’ loss to the Associated Press:

"“It was me, I had five of them,” Paul said of the turnovers. “It was bad decision making. At the time, we’re down two. I try to crossover right there, slip, turn it over. There were some bad passes in the first half. They got a significant amount of more shots than us, so for me, I’ve got to take care of the ball.”"

While Paul still has had his successes shooting the ball with Holiday matched up on him, he hasn’t been nearly as willing to search for his own offense with former teammate P.J. Tucker matched up on him. Paul has scored just two points on 1-for-3 shooting (0-for-0 from three) with one assist across 64.2 partial possessions in this series.

The differences in what Holiday and Tucker throw against Paul is certainly interesting insight into how Paul and the Suns have operated between both matchups. Some of that has come as a result of the Bucks relying more on their drop scheme as the series has gone on and the Suns searching out any mismatch that is presented to them.

Somewhere in the middle lies the balance of the Suns’ offense and Paul’s personal effectiveness, which has gone downhill as it has gone on. With that, the Bucks have only continued to win in the margins and in the turnover battle, all of which crested in Game 4 where Phoenix finished with a series-high 17 turnovers that led to 24 points.

Next. 3 areas for Bucks to improve on the road in Game 5 of NBA Finals. dark

The funny thing is this Bucks team has historically been adverse from forcing that volume of turnovers under Mike Budenholzer. But just as is the case with Paul’s own turnover struggles, the Bucks have found new methods to madden Paul and it’s catapulting them to their chance to win their first title in 50 years.