Because the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t getting the necessary consistency from Giannis Antetokoumnpo’s co-stars, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, their bench has been unfairly forced to overcompensate, and they haven’t.
In Game 1, the Phoenix Suns’ and Bucks’ benches contributed 22 points each, but Milwaukee needed more than that, given Giannis’ limitations fresh off his hyperextended knee, and the 4-for-14 10-point dud from Jrue Holiday. Pat Connaughton led the reserves with eight points in 28 minutes. Otherwise, Mike Budenholzer opted to play late Eastern Conference finals rising star Bobby Portis 14 minutes, Bryn Forbes saw 12, and Jeff Teague logged 10. Those three accumulated 14 points on a collective 5-of-11 shooting.
For Phoenix, its bench matched the 22 from Milwaukee, which was all that proved to be necessary in their 118-105 takedown. Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and DeAndre Ayton combined for 81 points on 56 percent shooting, Mikal Bridges added 14, and off the bench, Cameron Payne and Cameron Johnson added 10 each on 50 percent shooting. Torrey Craig had the other two.
In Game 2, Bucks reserves again had to overproduce, but couldn’t in their 118-108 loss Thursday night. Connaughton scored a healthy 14 points and added seven rebounds while shooting 5-for-10. Aside from that, Teague shot 1-for-4 and had four points in 12 minutes. Forbes hit 1-for-3 shots, scoring three points in six minutes. And Portis was limited to only five minutes, netting two points on 1-for-2 shooting, equating to nine points on 3-for-9 shooting for the non-Connaughton group. The Suns only needed 16 bench points from Johnson (8), Craig (6), and Payne (2), who were a collectively more efficient (5-for-10).
Why did they need minimal production from their reserves? Let’s observe the starters.
It’s simple, but it’s the difference. The imbalance has been hindering the Bucks all season long, and it’s what’s driven the Suns this far into the postseason, two wins away from a title. If the Bucks starters don’t level out, their bench will need to overcompensate, and given what we’ve seen, that appears unlikely, unless it’s a matter of home-court advantage. Benches do tend to perform more effectively at home during the playoffs, so the Bucks are hoping Games 3 and 4 provide good fortune. They’ll need everything they can get.
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