For nearly eight months, I have waited for my Phoenix Suns to finally exact their revenge against the team that beat them in last season’s NBA Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks. And of course, I got my first wish, which was that game was aired on TNT last night. And as for the second wish, well I wanted the Suns to beat them. And beat them they did.
Of course, the game was a little nerve-wracking in the first half, as the Suns quick 6-0 lead evaporated in a fashion that was similar to their 16-point lead evaporating in Game 5 of those NBA Finals. But anytime that the Bucks seemed poised to pull away, the Suns had an answer, whether it was DeAndre Ayton punishing the Bucks inside, timely shooting from the likes of Cameron Johnson or unexpected offensive contributions from the likes of Bismack Biyombo. So yeah, the Suns had an answer for everything.
The game itself was a total second half domination by the Suns, with Ayton scoring eight of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter, two of which were via an emphatic two-hand dunk right in the face of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yeah, you couldn’t block that one, Giannis!
So after the Suns capped off their dominant third quarter with a driving one-hand slam by the aforementioned Cameron Johnson to extend their lead to 97-77, the Suns successfully protected their commanding second half lead to ensure that there wouldn’t be a repeat of that Game 5 debacle. And although the Suns outscored the Bucks by just four, 34-30, in the fourth quarter, they clearly learned a lot about protecting a big lead against the Bucks, thanks mostly to both Chris Paul’s sheer will in not letting his team lose and the fact that he accounted for 15 of those 34 fourth quarter points, whether via scoring or passing. And speaking of passing, Johnson made a gorgeous pass to a cutting Mikal Bridges for a highlight-worthy three-point play in that quarter. The Suns would go on to win 131-107, with the final margin of victory being just one point less than what I had predicted in my two-sporting event prediction blog entry.
Sure, this game wasn’t a potential close-out game for the Suns in the NBA Finals. But it was a “prove it” game to let the Bucks know that this Suns team is more well-rounded than it was last season. Plus, if this Suns team can play like this in four games during a potential NBA Finals rematch, well then it will be the third time in nearly three decades that a Wisconsin team will be denied winning back-to-back championships. And that potential denial could occur in a rematch of all things.
Well, that does it for this edition of Steve Reacts.
Tune in on Monday to see my reaction to the Super Bowl 56 matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.