NBA Finals Game 1 reaction: Antetokounmpo returns, but Suns still too good

Giannis Antetokounpo of the Milwaukee Bucks
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Ricky Dimon

NBA

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Good news for the Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from his knee injury to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Bad news for the Milwaukee Bucks: Just about everything else.

Despite having their full roster intact for the first time since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks were no match for the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night. As we predicted, a healthy and well-rested Phoenix squad treated its home crowd to a convincing win—with a final score of 118-103 that comfortably covered the -6 spread.

That’s not to say all is lost for Milwaukee. Let’s take a look at what happened in Game 1, and what it means for the next week… or two weeks.

It’s CP3’s time

With Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks either hobbled or out for most of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks always had the best player on the floor. It was either Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, or Jrue Holiday. Heck, it was even Brook Lopez for one game. On Tuesday, Milwaukee most definitely did not have the best player. That was Chris Paul, famously making his first-ever NBA Finals appearance at 36 years old. Paul’s debut did not disappoint, as the veteran point guard delivered 32 points on 12-for-19 shooting (4-for-7 from three-point range) to go along with nine assists.

As we also predicted in our same game parlay (cashed at +1397 odds), both Cameron Payne and Cameron Johnson scored in double-figures off the bench. When Phoenix is getting at least 22 points from all three of its stars (Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton) plus that kind of production from its reserves, this team is going to be tough to beat.

Still just a minor hiccup for Bucks

Needless to say, it is by no means panic time in Milwaukee. The Bucks may not have won the game, but getting Antetokounmpo back was a victory in itself. Earlier on Wednesday, it was unclear what the Greek Freak’s status was for Game 1—or for the entire series. Now we know: he’s back. And he’s only going to get better with each outing that he gets under his belt. Antetokounmpo went for 20 points and 17 rebounds, shooting 6-for-11 from the floor. You can be sure he will attempt a lot more than 11 shots in Game 2.

What next?

I had the Suns in 7 before the series started and I see no reason to change following Game 1. Sure, “Suns in 4” will still be everyone’s favorite calling card on the heels of such a convincing performance. But Antetokounmpo is back and the two-time NBA MVP is unlikely to let his team get swept. He not only played, but he also looked pretty good. And even though the Bucks lost and trailed by double-digits most of the way, they did not go away without a fight.

This series is just getting started. It should be a fun one.

But stick with the Suns.

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