Jeff Teague is on the verge of winning a championship.
Game 6 of the NBA Finals is tonight, and the Milwaukee Bucks have a close-out opportunity on their home floor for the first time in these playoffs. Seriously, in Round 1 against the Miami Heat, they swept the defending Eastern Conference Champions, finishing up in South Beach. In Round 2, they outlasted the Nets in Brooklyn on their home floor in that infamous Game 7, where we might have a totally different NBA Finals if Kevin Durant had a smaller foot. And in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Atlanta Hawks were also dropped by the Bucks, who were on the road.
The Bucks have won three straight against the Phoenix Suns and now have a 3-2 lead after getting the first road win of the series from either team. If the Bucks do close it out tonight, here’s how we expect it’ll go down.
When Jrue Holiday is offensively awful, the Bucks can still win, as demonstrated by what we saw in Game 4. Holiday shot 4-for-20 and finished with just 13 points, but because of his all-word defense, helping limit Chris Paul to 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting and seven assists to a whopping five turnovers.
But when Holiday is All-Star level, the guy Milwaukee shipped out four first-round picks for, they’re damn near unbeatable in these Finals. Holiday had one good offensive outing in the Finals prior to Saturday night: Game 3, where he finished with 21 points, nine assists, and five rebounds while shooting 8-for-14 from the field and 5-for-10 from three. But in Game 5? Holiday was excellent on both ends and the driving force of the series most important play so far — the steal and alley-oop — which punctuated their massive road victory over the weekend. And he did it en route to 27 points, 13 assists, and three steals on 12-for-20 shooting from the field and 3-for-6 from three.
Giannis Antetokoumpo and Khris Middleton are handling their business in the series. Giannis is averaging 32.2 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game in these NBA Finals while shooting 61 percent from the field, and his 114 defensive rating is better than any rotation player in the playoffs outside of Deandre Ayton and Bobby Portis. Middleton is averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game on 45/37/86 splits. They need Holiday to be that third guy, and when he is, they’re damn near unbeatable, even when Devin Booker gets 40 as he did in Game 5, and even when Paul and Ayton combine to add an additional 41.
Prior to Game 5, you could find, for +900, a bet suggesting the Bucks would win Game 5, but the Suns would turn around and win Games 6 and 7. Why? Because of the inconsistency the Bucks have generally put forth in the playoffs. You still can’t entirely be fully confident in their ability to finish off the Western Conference Champions, even after an inspiring Game 5.
In Round 1, the Heat were gassed after a commanding Game 1 effort, seemingly reeling from the bubble, as did the rest of the final four from 2020. In Round 2, the Bucks lost because, again, Durant’s foot was too big, and they were an inch or two from being eliminated despite an injured James Harden and an inactive Kyrie Irving. And in Game 3, the Hawks hung with them more than they probably should’ve, and then Trae Young went down, and then we thought the worst of Giannis’ injury, though he obviously returned.
Paul is playing through injury, but you don’t get the sense he’ll go away quietly; he helped engineer a late run for the Suns to steal one from Milwaukee before the aforementioned late-game events. Sure, Booker’s had 40 or more in back-to-back games, but Phoenix won’t win without a huge CP3 effort. Paul’s been great in their victories and, save for Game 5, not as much in their losses. He’s been their engine all season and could be due for a movie-script like epic road Game 6 performance that pierces the hearts of Bucks fans in that Deer District, that apparently will touch 65,000 tonight.
He just did it last series, too.