Game 7 Previews: Mavs/Suns, Bucks/Celtics

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The Basketball Gods have shined their wonderful light on NBA fans by delivering a momentous final Sunday of Conference semifinal action. The Bucks travel to Boston for Game 7 at 3:30 p.m. EST, and the Mavs head to the desert to face the Suns at 8:30 p.m. EST. Both series have had some incredible moments and individual performances, so we’re in for a treat. Let’s break down these two series finales!

Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics

Series breakdown

The Bucks stole Game 1 of the series 101-89 in Boston before falling 109-86 in Game 2. Notched at a game apiece, the teams headed back to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 was back and forth for the entire contest, but Jrue Holiday hit a mid-range jumper with under 15 seconds to play to put Milwaukee up 103-100. Marcus Smart was fouled on the ensuing possession and contended that he was in the act of shooting, but the refs called it on the floor, so Smart went to the line for two. He made the first to cut the score to 103-101 and intentionally missed the second. He grabbed his own rebound and missed the follow-up. Robert Williams and Al Horford each missed tip-ins before Horford’s final attempt found the bottom of the basket. Unfortunately, he was a fraction of a second too late, and the game ended.

Horford wouldn’t be denied in Game 4, scoring a playoff career-high 30 points including 16 in the decisive fourth quarter. The series shifted back to Boston for a critical Game 5. After being whomped in the fourth quarter of Games 2-4, Milwaukee used a 33-21 fourth-quarter advantage to secure a come-from-behind victory after being down by as many as 14 with 10 minutes remaining. Bobby Portis snagged an offensive rebound with 45 seconds remaining and found Jrue Holiday for a three-pointer that tied the game at 105. Down 107-105 on the next possession, Giannis Antetokounmpo went to the free-throw line and made his first attempt. He missed his second, but Portis grabbed it and put it back in to give the Bucks a 108-107 lead. Jrue Holiday blocked Marcus Smart on the following possession and stole the ball from him on Boston’s final possession to ice the game.

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The winner of the series will face top-seeded Miami, but the intensity and superstar play in this series makes it feel like the true Eastern Conference Finals. Expect both teams to bring their A games after six back-and-forth affairs. We’ve got an all-timer brewing.

Injury Report

  • Robert Williams (knee) is questionable for Game 7 and has only played in five of 10 playoff games this season

  • Khris Middleton (knee) will miss a 10th straight game, and it’s unknown if he’ll be ready to play in the Eastern Conference Finals if Milwaukee advances.

Top performers

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 35.3 points, 13.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.3 blocks

Bobby Portis: 3.8 offensive rebounds over his last four contests

Jrue Holiday: 21.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.5 steals, 2.5 triples

Jayson Tatum: 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.5 triples, 1.2 steals, 1.2 blocks

Al Horford: 14.2 points, 10.5 boards, 3.8 assists, 3.3 stocks, 2.3 triples



Jaylen Brown: 22.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 3.2 triples

Team stats

Celtics: 105.0 PPG, 43.7 FG%, 37.1 3PT%, 80.3 FT%, 84.0 FGA, 21.2 FTA, 21.7 PF, 11.7 TOV

Bucks: 100.5 PPG, 42.2 FG%, 31.0 3PT%, 77.2 FT%, 89.3 FGA, 21.2 FTA, 20.5 PF, 11.5 TOV

Key numbers

  • The Bucks won the offensive rebound battle 24-13 over Games 5-6 with Robert Williams sidelined.

  • Giannis is 13th in career 40-point playoff games. He’s scored at least 40 points in three of his last four, and his 44 in Game 6 is the second-most playoff points of his career.

  • He’s just the seventh player since the merger to post a 40/20 playoff game and the first since Shaq did it in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals against Philly.

  • He’s scored at least 40 points in 3 of his last 4 closeout games and averaged 41.8 points in the process.

  • Jayson Tatum’s 46 points in Game 6 are the second-most in a potential elimination game in Celtics history.

  • Bobby Portis has averaged 3.8 offensive rebounds across his last four contests.

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Game 7 history

  • The Celtics are 24-9 in Game 7’s all-time and won three of the last four.

  • The Celtics beat the Bucks 112-96 in Game 7 of the first round in 2018. In that game, Giannis finished with 22/9/5, Khris Middleton had 32 points and Eric Bledsoe had 23 points. Jayson Tatum finished with 20/6/5, Terry Rozier posted 26/6/9 and Al Horford had 26/8/3.

  • The Bucks are 3-8 in Game 7’s all-time and lost three of the last four.

  • Milwaukee is 1-1 in Game 7’s with Giannis Antetokounmpo including a 115-111 win over Brooklyn in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals.

Keys to victory

Milwaukee

  • Efficient three-point shooting

  • More consistent scoring from players not named Giannis

  • Offensive rebounds and second-chance points

Boston

X-factors: Derrick White, Bobby Portis

Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns

Series Breakdown

The importance of homecourt cannot be understated in this series. Through six games, the home team has won every time. Dallas has been a better team at home, but the home/road splits for Phoenix are night and day:

  • Home: 120 PPG, 54/42/87 shooting splits, 12.3 TO

  • Away: 93.7 PPG, 44/39/83 shooting splits, 18.7 TO

After a tremendous regular season in which it finished with a franchise-record and league-best 64 wins, Phoenix is rewarded with a Game 7 in the Valley where it will look to close out the series and advance to a second straight Western Conference Finals. Luka Doncic gets a chance at redemption after his team fell in Game 7 of the first round to the Clippers last year. Win or lose, it’s incredible how he’s carried this team with far less talent to a Game 7 with the NBA’s best team.

Injury Report

Top Performers

Devin Booker: 25.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.7 threes

Deandre Ayton: 17.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 59.5 FG%

Chris Paul: 14.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.7 threes, 1.2 steals

Luka Doncic: 32.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.7 triples, 2.2 steals

Jalen Brunson: 17.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals

Team stats

Suns: 106.8 PPG, 49.2 FG%, 41.0 3PT%, 85.3 FT%, 82.0 FGA, 18.2 FTA, 23.0 PF, 15.5 TOV

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Mavericks: 105.0 PPG, 44.4 FG%, 38.5 3PT%, 75.0 FT%, 81.2 FGA, 24.0 FTA, 22.0 PF, 10.5 TOV

Key numbers

  • This postseason, the Mavs are 5-3 when Reggie Bullock hits at least three triples.

  • Luka Doncic has averaged 39.0 points, 10.3 assists, 9.0 rebounds, 3.7 triples and 1.7 steals with 51/39/61 shooting splits in three potential elimination games in his career.

  • Chris Paul hasn’t been himself over the Suns’ last four games, averaging just 9.3 points, 6.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals with 4.5 turnovers and 4.3 personal fouls.

  • Deandre Ayton has averaged just 0.5 stocks in this series and recorded a defensive stat in just two of six contests.

Game 7 history

  • The Suns are 4-5 all-time in Game 7’s but haven’t played any since 2006 when they beat the Lakers and Clippers in back-to-back series to advance to the Western Conference Finals

  • Chris Paul is 3-4 in career Game 7’s and just 1-3 in his last four. The win came in 2015 when he hit a game-winning layup over Tim Duncan to lead the Clippers past the Spurs

  • In his last Game 7, CP3 went for 19/11/12 as the Thunder fell to the Rockets in 2020

  • The Mavericks are 4-3 all-time in Game 7’s and lost to the Clippers in the first round last year. Luka went for 46 points, 14 assists, seven rebounds and five triples in that one.

Keys to victory

Dallas

Phoenix

  • Smart basketball from Chris Paul

  • Efficient three-point shooting from role players

  • Ramped up defensive energy from Deandre Ayton

X-factors: Jalen Brunson/Reggie Bullock, Mikal Bridges

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