Game 3 Exposed The Suns One Fatal Flaw That Could Cost Them An NBA Title

Jesse D. Garrabrant. Getty Images.

For pretty much the entire year and so far during this playoff runs, the Suns have been playing near flawless basketball. Them being in the Finals is not a fluke despite what Twitter wants you to believe. One of the reasons why they are in this position and many are excited about their future is the fact that they for the most part are an extremely well balanced team. Having said that, last night's Game 3 loss shed some light on one glaring issue that very well might come into play the rest of this series.

In Game 3, the Bucks dominated the point in the paint 54-40. They were even more dominant in terms of 2nd chance points, winning that battle 20-2. It's hard to beat a team at this level when you are getting worked like that inside. This isn't a Deandre Ayton issue either, he was once again pretty solid with 18/9 in his 24 minutes. But what we did see was the glaring issue and arguably the one fatal flaw that this Suns team has.

Look at how the Bucks adjusted their gameplan, specifically with Giannis. Pretty much everything he did was at the rim

For the most part he and the Bucks were able to live in the paint with relative ease because Ayton was limited due to foul trouble. Allow me to explain how much of an impact this makes for the Suns. All you really need to do is look at his on/off splits so far in these Finals

On the court: 105 minutes / 117.0 Ortg / 109.9 Drtg / +8.0 net rating

Off the court: 39 minutes / 104.9 Ortg / 122 Drtg / -17.1 Net rating

Things get even more lopsided when you break things down to an Giannis/Ayton matchup

For as well built as these Suns are, backup center is a huge issue. It didn't really kill them during the season, but when things slow down in the Finals, teams scheme to specifically expose your weakness, all it takes is a few fouls to completely change the flow of a game. This is especially true with Dario Saric not out with that torn ACL. The only real back up big men are Frank The Tank and Torrey Craig. They were a combined -24 last night in their 28 minutes. Essentially, the Suns can never take out Ayton or hope he never gets in foul trouble. It's really reminiscent of what we saw with Joel Embiid against the Raptors in 2019. They were so dominant with him on the floor, but with no playable depth behind him, the second he stepped off the floor for rest or had to deal with foul trouble, the Sixers shit the bed.

Now it's true that the Suns won't always have to deal with Scott Foster. My guess is after Monty Williams complained about the officiating last night that the whistle will be different in Game 4


This is no different than what Coach Bud did earlier in the series after the Suns got a VERY favorable whistle in Game 1. But that doesn't take away from a giant weakness now being exposed on the Suns side. If the Bucks are going to continue to be aggressive, it might not really come down to whether or not Ayton is in foul trouble. Just him getting a normal breather is a bit of an issue for the Suns. Remember, the Bucks aren't even shooting that well from three in these Finals. In a game like last night where it felt like they were finally starting to make their looks, they still finished 14-36 (38%). They were 5-18 in the first half, FTA were relatively even at 9 for MIL and 6 for PHX and the Bucks still had a 15 point lead at the break. 

Where the game changed is probably where you expect. Ayton only played 1:35 in the 3rd quarter after picking up his 4th foul, the Suns were forced to go to the rotation of Kaminsky/Craig, and they were a -19 in the 3rd quarter alone. This is where we saw the Bucks close on that huge 16-0 run, Giannis had 16 points on 4-5 shooting, the lead ballooned up to 22 and that was that.

I'm not even sure what the solution is here outside of playing Ayton 40+ minutes and praying he doesn't get in foul trouble. The good news is for the most part this season he's done a great job at limiting his fouls. Of all big men who play at least 30 minutes, his 2.8 fouls per game were the 10th lowest all year. He's played at least 39 minutes a total of 6 times these playoffs, including 42 in their Game 2 win. I truly think if he's not going to be in foul trouble, he has to play at least that amount, if not more. Especially if the Bucks find a way to tie this up at 2-2. 

This issue only becomes more of a big deal if guys like Booker/Bridges have an off night offensively, but that's certainly possible. It's the first time for all these guys, who knows how they'll respond as things get tighter and tighter. The one thing we know though is if the Bucks continue to find a way to expose this glaring hole in the Suns roster, we could have a long series on our hands.