Phoenix Suns are dogs: Why are the Bucks favored in Game 3?

Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns are underdogs for Game 3 — and very likely Game 4.

Why are the Bucks, down 0-2, suddenly seen as just as good as the Suns — or better — at home?

If you’re a “Suns in Four” fan and you enjoy placing the occasional wager, there’s a big-time opportunity to put money with mouth as Game 3 nears.

The Phoenix Suns are a consensus 3.5 to 4-point underdog to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 as the series shifts to Wisconsin. After two pretty convincing victories, does Milwaukee have a legitimate chance?

With Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton forming a tough triumvirate, the Suns are in control for now.

As good as the outlook appears for Phoenix, the reality is that the Bucks are a championship-caliber team, too, and they haven’t exactly been blown out of either Finals games.

Phoenix Suns as underdogs, Reason 1: The Bucks are at home

In the NFL, the prevailing notion is that home field is worth three points; in the NBA, for the home court, it’s anywhere from 2.5 to four points, depending whose analysis you’re following.

Since the Suns were only a 4.5-point favorite in Games 1 and 2, the swing is understandable – if you believe these teams are evenly matched.

But are they?

A 10-point victory in Game 2 followed a 13-point victory in Game 1; what to make of this? The more eager Suns fan would say Phoenix deserves to be favored in Game 3.

But what if Bucks stars Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton find an higher level on offense? The first game at home could tilt Milwaukee’s energy.

The Bucks were within five points late in Thursday’s Game 2.

While the Suns eventually figured things out, they aren’t without their challenges – the absence of Dario Saric and the uncertainty of Torrey Craig’s status weigh into the oddsmakers’ decision-making.

The sportsbooks seem to be leaning toward Devin Booker shooting more like he did in Game 1 (1-for-7 from 3-point range) than he did in Game 2 (7-for-12 from long range). And of course, for Chris Paul to be less than his all-world efforts from the first two games.

Whether the Suns decide to force the small-ball plan, or go with Frank Kaminsky for extended minutes, the fact that their options are more limited lend some understanding of the Game 3 point spread.

Phoenix Suns as underdogs, Reason 2: The Bucks will find their groove

The analytics can be interpreted in favor of the Bucks or for the Suns. Let’s look at a couple of numbers and how they could point to Milwaukee’s advantage.

The Suns were a little more careless in Game 2, bringing their overall edge in assists-to-turnovers to within 2.00 to 1.83. Milwaukee could seize this opportunity and further close the gap.

Milwaukee can’t keep shooting this poorly, right? The Bucks’ true shooting percentage (2-point field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws) in the Finals is only 53.7 percent; the Suns are at 61.0 percent.

Trends: The Bucks are 7-1 at home during the 2021 playoffs, winning by more than 13 points on average.

It’s all about whether you think the Bucks will reverse their shooting troubles.

Phoenix Suns as underdogs: Shooting it down

As Suns fans are aware, Phoenix is among the NBA’s best road teams, finishing 24-12 away from Arizona during the regular season. The Suns were underdogs on the road 13 times this season; they covered 10 times.

The Suns provided plenty of reasons for optimism in their Game 1 performance.

In Game 1, Giannis Antetokounmpo was rusty; in Game 2, he was spectacular. And the Bucks lost both games. Phoenix continues to seek ways to slow the big man.

One outcome is virtually assured: Giannis is going to be his MVP-caliber self in Game 3; the issue for Milwaukee is whether one or more of his teammates can step up and help.

The Suns’ defensive game plan, relying on switches and strong close-outs on 3-point tries, figures to challenge Milwaukee again – and it will take above-par performances from the likes of Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, Bryn Forbes and Brook Lopez, along with Middleton and Holiday, to push this series to at least five games.

Milwaukee’s depth are the top three players is not close to Phoenix’s supporting cast — even without Saric and perhaps Craig.

Mikal Bridges announced his presence with 27 points in Game 2, and the Suns are 11-1 this postseason when Bridges scores in double figures.

Must Read. Phoenix Suns and their future with Chris Paul. light

As for Game 3? Another strong night from Bridges and another 20-for-40 team effort from 3-point range would likely put the Suns within a game of their first NBA title.