Phoenix Suns Defeat Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 — What to Know About the 2021 NBA Finals
Chris Paul led the Phoenix Suns to victory at home on Tuesday night during Game 1 of his first NBA Finals in his 16-year career.
The point guard, 36, triumphed in the third quarter, scoring 32 points and nine assists. With a final score of 118-105, it gives the Suns one game victory in their first appearance at the NBA Finals since 1993.
"I was just trying to be aggressive,'' Paul told reporters after the game. "The coaches talked about playing with pace. I'm an old head but in this series we have to play with pace.''
Paul also had the full confidence of Suns' Coach Monty Williams. "He's one of those rare guys that can see the floor and he knows where all five guys should be,'' Williams said of his star player. "He took advantage of his opportunities versus their switching defense and thankfully he made shots. Every so often he'll look over to me and he'll squint and I'll know he's wanting a play, and then I'll call it. Before it was just me like, run this, run this, run this. Now I try my best to stay out of his way, because I know what he's seeing.''
Shooting guard Devin Booker, 24, followed close behind with 27 points, as center Deandre Ayton racked up 22 points, and small-forward Mikal Bridges with 14 points.
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Coming off an injury, Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo put up quite a fight, finishing the game with 20 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks. "It was tough," said Antetokounmpo, who suffered a hyperextended left knee last week. "Obviously I had to do my best to get back. Listen to my medical staff. I did the right treatment. Took care of my body and supported my teammates, and now I'm back."
"We planned on him to play,'' Suns coach Williams said of Antetokounmpo. "Just a guy like Giannis, how hard he works on his body, we figured a guy who works that hard would find a way back on the floor for the Finals. This time of year you sacrifice everything.''
With Game 2 on Thursday night, here's what you should know about both teams.
First Time for Everything
This year's NBA Finals has the fewest past participants since 1977.
Phoenix's Jae Crowder is the only player on either team with NBA Finals experience after he played last season with the Miami Heat. Meanwhile, the Suns' Monty Williams and the Bucks' Mike Budenholzer are serving as head coaches at the NBA Finals for the first time.
The Suns' path to the Larry O'Brien Championship trophy has been an unlikely one. Three seasons ago, they boasted the worst record in the league, as well as the worst record in the Western Conference two seasons prior and not a single playoff appearance in the past 10 seasons.
The Suns and Bucks have faced off in the NBA playoffs once before. Both teams played in the Western Conference in 1978, when Milwaukee beat Phoenix in a first-round series.
After playing in several overseas circuits, Milwaukee forward P.J. Tucker made his transition to the NBA with the Suns, playing five seasons from 2012-17. Phoenix's Torrey Craig started the season with the Bucks before he was traded to the Suns in March.
Third Time's a Charm
This season marks both teams' third appearances at the NBA Finals.
Phoenix lost to the Boston Celtics in 1976 (4-2) and again to the Chicago Bulls in 1993 (4-2). Milwaukee defeated the Baltimore Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) in 1971 (4-0) and they lost to the Boston Celtics in 1974 (4-3).