The 'little' details of a Finals: from DiVincenzo to Ayton

In a series that is on the way to lengthening, the conditions begin to have their effect. Holiday appears, those who are not there are missed ...


"Bucks in 6, Bucks in 6" ended up chanting the Fiserv Forum after the third game of the NBA Finals. You need little to do it; but even so, the chant might have died down. The mantra is part of the franchise culture. Ever since Brandon Jennings predicted, in a totally wrong way, that result for the series against Miami Heat in 2013, the Buck fans have adopted these three words as a sign of identity, as a shout with a certain memory, but also of hope. One that, like Jennings's, is irrational and, in many cases, baseless; but it needs to be fed. 41 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists fill up enough. Giannis Antetokounmpo, this Giannis Antetokounmpo, satiates enough that hope stays alive in Wisconsin. A 3-0, almost certainly, would have meant a white flag, a difference that no one has ever overcome. Going into the second game at home with, simply, enough fortitude to accept the final blow in the eyes of their own fans. A 2-1 ... A 2-1 is the start of a new tie.

The Suns have more resources than the Bucks. It is a fact, but that, in a Finals, is not a complete synonym of victory. Every playoff series is a life unto itself: a beginning and an end, but with a multitude of twists in between that, in most cases, cannot be foreseen. In this uncontrolled sea is where, until now, Mike Budenholzer had drowned, without answers to the first storm that arose. This year is different. Milwaukee recovered from a 2-0 against Brooklyn Nets (with injuries in between, yes) and recovered, with a lot of personality, to the injury of its franchise player in the Conference Finals. Giannis's harangues to his colleagues, Bobby Portis's anger, believing himself a small market with a great destiny ... The franchise has a culture that it did not know and is making it worthwhile. Of course: it has simply survived. He has gotten an extra life against a rival who is far from undone. Phoenix still has the button in his possession, the one that, at any moment, can blow up the Finals. Pressing it, however, will not be as straightforward as it seemed. You may have to rephrase your approach, but because they already had a formula. One that worked. To new questions, now, he will seek new answers. Something he has done, wonderfully, all season long.

DiVincenzo's discharge ...

Every detail counts. And, many times, at the least expected moment. Outside of that core of indispensable players, of the untouchable stars, there is another who, many times, is the one who opts for small battles, those that decide wars. Bobby Portis is a clear example of this. After a creditable regular season, he disappeared from the rotation in the series against the Nets. He played the first two games and then not a second more. Become a popular hero of the Fiserv Forum ("Bobby, bobby ..."), he returned to the Hawks, being fundamental, and, in the third game against the Suns, he was part of the song to rebellion. For his 11 points and 8 rebounds, but also for his character, capable of transferring his fierce personality to the crowd.

Portis is a paradigmatic example of a certainty: whether used or not, it is vital to have all the pieces available. In many plays, you cannot jump on stage without any of the supporting roles, because their role, although tiny, gives meaning to the whole. In the season in which the absences of big stars have changed everything, the absences of secondary can also do it.

In the first game of the series, Milwaukee missed Donte DiVincenzo. It continues and will continue to do so, but, in that meeting, it was evidence. The Suns mistreated the Bucks in the defensive changes, in the containment of a pick and roll that, in itself, is difficult to stop. If he's not the best, Chris Paul is close to being the best player ever in these kinds of contexts. Brook López, although he tried to remember what the academy script dictates, suffered in each adjustment. And with him, Portis himself, PJ Tucker, Pat Connaughton ... no one got away. DiVincenzo, there, could have contributed. And a lot. Passing the locks, avoiding the odd mismatch, etc. Surely, it would not have been a solution; but a little more air to redirect the situation on the fly. Budenholzer has rectified: now Holiday comes out defending Paul and not Tucker, he has reduced the number of defensive changes ... He has stopped the bleeding, but without being able to count on an alternative that, in his short rotation, would have more weight than apparent: less minutes for Jeff Teague, minor role for Connaughton, etc. Donte's loss was already known; but, without expecting it, now is when he is missed.

... to Saric

If, counting on her, DiVincenzo's dismissal is having an impact ... Dario Saric's, totally unpredictable and unfortunate, may become one of the keys to the remainder of the series. Like Donte (although he was a starter), the Croatian player is not a prop for the Suns, but a piece is his functions and a few assigned minutes. Specifically, 10.5. That was the time that the pivot entered the track during these playoffs, with a clear mission: to rest Deandre Ayton. Without him, Monty Williams is practically orphaned of alternatives in the interior, and in the third game it was noticed.In addition, the course of the match itself did not help. Ayton, who had added 12 points and 3 rebounds in the first quarter, was charged with fouls at high speed. With the obligation to manage his minutes more austerely, Frank Kaminsky or the small ball were the only options. The American, who no longer has Williams' confidence, failed miserably, and this time the Bucks also dominated among small teams. In his 13 minutes in the game, Kaminsky accumulated -12 at +/-, being an easy target in defense and a testimonial contribution in attack (6 + 4 + 2). In sum, the painting was a resoundingly lost battle. Milwaukee's 54 points for Phoenix's 40, 47 rebounds for 36 and ... the most shocking: 20 points for 2 on second chances. If, in the current context, the Bucks can suffer in the defense of the pick and roll, the Suns can do it in the inner zone.Holiday: more attack, better defense

It was one of the keys of the series. Holiday and defense, defense and Holiday; but also his effervescent contribution in attack, somewhat more unknown, but necessary. Bucks and Suns reached the Finals being the two best rear guards in the playoffs, with 105 and 103.3 in the rating respectively, and it was the Arizonans who were making their case. The always whimsical narrative couldn't make it any clearer: On average, the Suns were leaving their rivals at 108 points on average, the Bucks' number in Game 2.

In the third, the barrier was broken: 120. And not only that. For the first time in the entire series, the Suns fell below 20 points in any of the quarters: in the second, surely, the best basketball in Milwaukee in the entire tie. How? To a large extent, as a direct consequence of the previous point, but also thanks to the greater contribution of Giannis's squires, which, as was clear in the previous section, is not enough when he is left alone in heroism. Khris Middleton was somewhat more successful, but above all, Jrue Holiday stood out. And he did it at very specific times. When the Suns, already in the third quarter, threatened to return to the game (74-70), the point guard responded with four triples practically in a row (90-76). It could be the X factor of the tie and it has become clear why: it can be vital on the outside defense and a surprise factor on the offensive plot. It was, in addition, on Devin Booker's worst night in the playoffs. Again, to the delight of the numbers, his final 21 points (his highest in the series) match, almost perfectly, the final difference in the match (120-100).Giannis, close to 100%

Escape any analysis. Obviousness is often the most sensible reasoning. Giannis Antetokounmpo's physical condition was going to be essential in the tie and, after his last two games, it is clear that he is very good. In the first, he left more doubts. He modified many of his natural movements, without abusing the euro step or sacrificing some defensive aids; in the rest, his physical superiority has been overwhelming, whether he is at his optimum or not. If last season Jae Crowder was almost a monster with Miami Heat, one more nightmare to go to bed with, in this series, for the Greek, Crowder is being a toy. 83 + 25 + 10 in the sum of both games, placing himself next to Shaquille O'Neal in the statistics and beating his own ghosts (13 of 17 in free throws). "We have to build a wall, somehow, somehow ..." Chris Paul warned after the game. If, despite the Suns' lead, the 20,000 souls at the Fiserv Forum have the courage to sing "Bucks in 6, Bucks in 6," it's largely because of him. It is the hope of a Finals that seemed to seek the sentence, but that, now, seem doomed to drag on. On Wednesday (3:00 AM PDT), the answer. And those of the Suns.

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