3 keys for the Milwaukee Bucks as they host shorthanded Phoenix Suns

Jul 14, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 14, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Bobby Portis. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton
Feb 10, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

After two wins against two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and on a nice little three-game win streak, the Milwaukee Bucks are back home for a night to host the Phoenix Suns for round two of the NBA Finals rematch.

The first rematch… didn’t go the Bucks’ way, to put it nicely! As the fourth and final game of a road trip, the Bucks got waxed by 24 points and lost Pat Connaughton in the process. Well, this time, they’ll be at home, relatively rested and the Suns could be without their two best players.

Chris Paul has a thumb fracture and definitely won’t play while Devin Booker was placed into health and safety protocols (hey, remember those?) back on March 2nd, so it’s possible he’s back but it seems unlikely. Phoenix has still won both games without their two stars, but this will be a different test as they’re on the road against the reigning champs.

The Milwaukee Bucks will need to keep Deandre Ayton in check this time around

If there was ever a game that the Milwaukee Bucks’ lack of size was apparent, it was in that first game against the Suns in early February. Deandre Ayton feasted on switches, leading to him scoring a game-high 27 points on 12-of-14 shooting.

Although he won’t have Chris Paul feeding him the ball (he had 19 assists in that game, my goodness), he’ll still be a focal point of the Suns’ offense considering how well he fared in the last meeting.

The main difference for the Bucks in this one is that they’ll have Serge Ibaka available to throw at him in the minutes where Giannis Antetokounmpo is off the floor. He went 4-of-5 against Bobby Portis, so that’s likely a matchup the Bucks will try to avoid if they can, but it’s not like they have a ton of options!

I understand that they will not want to show too much of their hand and still play somewhat vanilla coverage on defense, but I thought they gave up the switch far too easily in that game which allowed Ayton to get switched onto Jrue Holiday and Wesley Matthews. Holiday is strong, he’s not that strong.

Expect more defensive attention to be paid to Ayton with Phoenix missing their two stars and, hopefully, a less impactful performance.