NBA | Phoenix Suns has the edge against injury-hit Milwaukee Bucks

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The Paul-Booker combination may prove too strong if Antetokounmpo doesn’t recover in time

The last time Phoenix Suns played in the NBA Finals was in 1993 when it lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Milwaukee Bucks’ last Finals appearance goes back even further — 1974, three years after it won its only NBA title. That these two teams have made it this far in a pandemic-affected season is a tribute to their coaching staff and key players.

Massive boost

Point ‘god’ Chris Paul’s addition has been a massive boost to the Suns. Among the best guards in the league since 2005, he had never previously made the Finals — he has played in weaker sides and has also missed out because of injury in the past. He has added veteran poise to the Monty Williams-coached team. The Suns have a terrific backcourt with the Paul-Devin Booker combination. Paul orchestrates and uses his high IQ to break down even the most sophisticated half-court defence while Booker is a dead-eye mid/long-range shooter who can be a go-to weapon when the chips are down.

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Centre DeAndre Ayton plays sturdily in the paint and has a feathery soft touch at the rim that makes him a potent offensive weapon while young forward Mikal Bridges and gritty veteran Jae Crowder provide the three-and-defence nous to the outfit. The Suns also have good bench strength.

Formidable threat

The Bucks, however, will be a formidable threat, provided former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo recovers from his knee hyper-extension problem. The side had to weather a tough challenge from the Brooklyn Nets in the conference semifinals and then had to reach deep within the roster when the ‘Greek Freak’ got injured.

The Bucks are a versatile squad — point guard Jrue Holiday is a sturdy rock who can defend multiple positions, P.J. Tucker was outstanding against Kevin Durant in the semifinals and should take on the Booker assignment while Khris Middleton is an unsung Swiss Army knife who seamlessly shifts from the back seat to the closer option in crunch time.

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Centre Brook Lopez has his flaws (defending in space, which mid-range maestro Paul will do his best to take advantage of), but he is a good shot-blocker and has good shooting range.

The Bucks are complete with Antetokounmpo, a freight train in the paint, an outstanding defender who plays with a relentless motor. If he remains injured, the Suns will be favourites, but if he risks playing, expect the coaches matching wits with subtle adjustments.

The Finals are going to be a treat to watch.

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