3 Key player battles that will decide Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals

The Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks will face off in the 2021 NBA Finals with the championship at stake.

It’s a matchup that almost no one could have predicted at the start of the season. Chris Paul (Suns) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) are both deserving of a first-ever championship, though only one will take home the prize.

Individual player matchups always play an absolutely critical role in determining the winners of such series.

The Milwaukee Bucks will be shorthanded against the Phoenix Suns

Winning Game 1 is crucial to this series and the Milwaukee Bucks will try to steal a win on the Phoenix Suns home court.

Unfortunately for the Bucks, Antetokounmpo remains doubtful for the first game of the 2021 NBA Finals. The Greek Freak hyperextended his left knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals and he hasn’t been in action since. He will reportedly try to play on Tuesday, but it all depends on how his knee holds up in the morning of the series-opener.

His absence will be advantageous for the Phoenix Suns, who are coming into the series in better health than their opponent.

With Antetokounmpo sidelined, other player battles will take center stage and could prove to be the deciding factor for Game 1. Here, we look at three key player battles that could ultimately decide the winner.

#1 Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns) vs Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks)

Chris Paul #3 protects the ball against Reggie Jackson #1 and Paul George #13
Chris Paul #3 protects the ball against Reggie Jackson #1 and Paul George #13

The Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul will go head-to-head with one of the best defensive guards in the league. After facing Patrick Beverley for stretches during the Western Conference Finals, Paul will face a bigger and stronger opponent in the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jrue Holiday.

This battle of veteran point guards is almost an even matchup. Paul turned the clock back against the LA Clippers in the Western Conference Finals when he averaged 24.0 points, 8.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Holiday, meanwhile, had a stellar ECF with averages of 22.0 points, 10.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.

Both are excellent defenders and will almost certainly cancel each other out when they meet in Game 1. Paul will have the Phoenix Suns crowd behind him, however, so expect him to have a slight advantage over his Milwaukee Bucks counterpart.

Leave a Comment