We should’ve seen a Suns Game 3 loss vs. the Bucks coming

Jul 12, 2021, 7:30 AM
Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, is fouled by Phoenix Suns' Jae Crowder, left, during...

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, is fouled by Phoenix Suns' Jae Crowder, left, during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

(AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

For someone who spends as much time watching movies as I do, you would think I’d be better at calling the surprise ending.

Sixth Sense, Usual Suspects, Fight Club, Primal Fear, Arrival, The Prestige — when I watch these movies a second time, knowing what to look for, I curse myself for not seeing what was right in front of my face the whole time.

This was not the case for the Phoenix Suns and their 120-100 NBA Finals Game 3 loss against the Bucks. This wasn’t some M. Night Shyamalan-like plot twist. Really, it went exactly as planned.

There was an easy predictability about what happened to the Suns on Sunday. Nobody wants to admit it, of course, and certainly no one with the organization ever would. But at any point this weekend did you catch yourself thinking that if the Suns were going to lose a game, this would be the one?

First off, the Bucks were going to play better at home, particularly their second and third best options in Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.

Second, when you’re down 2-0 and another loss means certain defeat, it evokes a certain desperation.

Talking about matching that desperation is easy. Actually matching it? The Suns could not.

And none of this addresses the most basic part of the equation. The Suns were not going to sweep the Bucks. Never were. I haven’t even brought up the whole Scott Foster thing, though to be honest I really don’t think Sunday was about him. But just the official’s mere presence in the game and his tortured history with Chris Paul suggested that whatever game he worked would be the game Phoenix would lose.

Most importantly, the Bucks are a really good basketball team featuring one of the five best basketball players on the planet. Teams like that with players like Giannis Antetokounmpo don’t just topple with the slightest of a push. They push back.

And boy did the Bucks push back. Fifty-four paint points. A 20-2 advantage in second-chance points. Regular as clock work.

As Dan Bickley pointed out in his column, we’ve seen this movie before. The Suns have lost five times in the postseason, and other than Game 3 vs. the Lakers, they’ve always found it within themselves to recalibrate: A second half beatdown in Game 4 vs. the Lakers, a grindy win against the Clippers in Game 4 and a laugher against the Clippers to wipe them out in Game 6.

“Suns in Four” looks great on a t-shirt, but it’s no way to eat in the NBA Finals. So as long as you knew that going in, you should be mostly alright with what happened on Sunday.

Now comes the hinge point for the series. If you believe, as I do, that the Suns are the better basketball team, they’ll leave Milwaukee with what they went there to steal; one of the two games. If they don’t? Now that’s a plot twist I didn’t see coming.


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