Seven-game NBA Finals could be in making

Photo: Mark Rebilas/USA Today Sports

The NBA Finals just got interesting. Just the way the NBA and ABC want it. A best-of-three.

After the Phoenix Suns appeared to make this a short series, the Milwaukee Bucks responded by winning their two home games to even the series at 2.

Home-court turned out to be the theme of the series so far. The Suns won their first two games at their home court, and now the Bucks responded by doing the same thing. There’s a good chance the Suns could win their next game at home and the Bucks can do the same thing. This means we likely will see Game 7.

After Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Payne took charge in the first two games, they played ordinary at Milwaukee. After Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton were nonexistent in the first two games at Phoenix, they imposed their will when the series shifted at their court and now they have all the momentum with them playing with confidence.

All the pressure is now on the Suns heading to Saturday’s Game 5, and they know it. If Paul does not get it together in that game, concerns would be on DEFCON 1.

Paul struggled in Games 3 and 4. He scored 29 points combined in those two games, and he scored only 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting in Game 4. He contributed five of the Suns’ 17 turnovers in the last game. He played so bad that he finished with an uncharacteristic -10 rating after not being aggressive such as shooting or going to the rim to score in the Suns’ 109-103 Game 4 loss to the Bucks on Wednesday night.

Reports suggest the Suns point guard has torn ligaments in his hand. But no one cares about that. Everyone gets hurt this time of the year after a long season. Either Paul finds a way or he doesn’t.

One has to think he will find a way. He earned the benefit of the doubt based on his NBA accomplishments. Being at home can only help. If that doesn’t work, then he and the Suns are in trouble.

This is getting serious as the stakes get higher. Paul becomes scrutinized more than ever now.

It will be interesting how the Point God and the Suns respond to adversity. They never really faced it in the playoffs so far. They played a Los Angeles Lakers team that had a hurting LeBron James and an injured Anthony Davis. They faced an overmatched Denver Nuggets. They did not have to face Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard in the Western Conference finals.

The Bucks show they are in to win it rather than be part of the Suns’ championship coronation.

Giannis Antetokounmpo played like the best player in the NBA Finals so far. He scored 42 points in the Bucks’ Game 2 118-108 loss to the Suns. He followed it up by scoring 41 points in the Bucks’ Game 3 120-100 victory over the Suns. He blocked Ayton’s shot that would have tied the game at 101. From there, the Bucks would go on to win 109-103 in Game 4.

If Antetokounmpo continues to play like he is possessed, this increases the Bucks’ chances of winning it all. He is basically being triple-teamed as the Suns are forming the Giannis wall, and yet he finds a way to score. With Middleton, Holiday and Pat Connaughton getting more looks by being open, this benefits them and the Bucks as a result of the Greek Freak being triple-teamed.

If the series goes seven, it’s hard to bet against Antetokounmpo. He finished with 40 points and 13 rebounds in Game 7 against the Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals. It seems as the series goes along, he gets even better. This is a challenge the Suns have to deal with.

Antetokounmpo is creating his own legacy with his play in the NBA Finals.

The Bucks certainly surprised me. I did not think Holiday and Middleton would step up in Games 3 and 4, but they have. Playing at Fiserv Forum certainly helped them a great deal. It will be interesting if they can duplicate that on the road.

No one should write off the Suns just like that, though. They did not win 51 games and go to the NBA Finals for nothing. They are more than capable of getting back on track. They are not going to play this bad for long. My money is on Paul to play much better in Game 5.

Right now, the game seems to be on a collision course for seven games. No one could have said it after the first two games. Here we are. The best-of-three. No one knows what will happen.

After this series provided mild interest to start, it heats up now.

Just the way the NBA and ABC like it.

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