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Bucks @ Suns NBA Finals Game 1 Prediction: Look for slower pace in series opener

Will this be Ayton's biggest series yet?
Will this be Ayton's biggest series yet?
By Zachary Rainey

How will Bucks come out in Game 1 on short rest and a hobbled Giannis...?

The NBA Finals is finally upon us.

These playoffs have been particularly exciting because you truly got the sense that anyone could win.

Milwaukee’s road to get here wasn’t easy. After making quick work of the Miami Heat, it took them the full seven games to get by Brooklyn. You can say as much as you want that they never would’ve got by the Nets if it wasn’t for James Harden and Kyrie Irving getting hurt, but that’s the reality.

Things got weird in the series against Atlanta, with both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Trae Young suffering pretty severe injuries.

As for the Phoenix Suns, they’ve been pushed to six games in a series twice against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers and swept the Denver Nuggets.

Watching Chris Paul in these playoffs has been a privilege. He’s not the guy that goes out there every game looking to get 30, because I think he could if he really wanted to. Instead, he keeps looking to get other guys going and then takes over late when he needs to.

Other than a few instances, the Suns really haven’t had many ugly stretches. They run their offense with Paul at the helm and know they have multiple guys who can reliably hit shots. Heck, even guys like Torrey Craig and Cameron Johnson have had big moments in these playoffs.

Before I saw what I’m about to say; let’s agree that the Bucks wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Khris Middleton. He picked up the slack without Giannis in the deciding game against the Hawks and went off for 32 points. He’s also had explosions of 35 points and 38 points in these playoffs.

The only problem is that there’s also nights he’ll score between 13 and 16 points on around 35 percent shooting. Even if Giannis is going to be back, and he’s been upgraded to questionable for Game 1, those poor shooting nights simply can’t happen.

Phoenix also plays significantly better defense than any of the teams the Bucks have played to this point.

Giannis and his hyperextended knee will be what I keep my eye on tonight and throughout the rest of the series, as I’m sure will be the case for every sports writer in America.

After the Bucks won the Eastern Conference, Giannis posted a picture on Instagram of him sitting in the locker room with the trophy. While the knee in question was covered in black spandex, which is already slimming, that left knee looked huge. I doubt He’s anywhere close to 100 percent.

The matchup I’ll be watching though is Deandre Ayton and Brook Lopez. So far, the teams that the Bucks have played had centers that were strictly rim-runners or defensive-minded rebounders. Lopez will now have to guard an all-around center, who has seemingly gotten better every game in these playoffs.

What I love most about Ayton in this series is that he’s shown the ability to guard on the perimeter when he’s switched onto a guard.

If you’ve been trailing my series bets, we’ve made some good money these playoffs. I gave out the Hawks over the Knicks, Denver over Portland, Phoenix over Denver, Milwaukee over Brooklyn and Phoenix over the Clippers. As one of my first pieces here at bettingodds, I also wrote a compelling case for the Bucks to come out of the East.

We’re down to our last series and it has been quite the fun ride. Let’s end it with Phoenix to win the series at -200 and Chris Paul to win series MVP at +175.

For tonight, I’m leaning on the under 219.5. Both teams ranked in the top seven of defensive efficiency this season and I think it might take these guys a game or two to figure out what will and won’t work on each side of the ball.

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