Fun fact: seven of the past 10 NBA Finals have featured at least one non-injury-induced starting lineup change. Some of them, like the Lakers inserting Alex Caruso into the starting five for last season's clincher, was relatively minor. Others, like Golden State swapping Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bogut in 2015, changed the the series and the league as a whole. Teams tend to get more creative with their seasons on the line. The Milwaukee Bucks aren't quite there yet, but after Game 1's beatdown, they aren't too far away from that, either. So let's try to figure out what their change could be, if they do indeed follow the path former finalists have laid out for them at some point in the series.
Pat Connaughton would be the obvious reserve to get upgraded into a starting role simply because Milwaukee has no other options. The Bucks saw firsthand how easily the Suns can hunt Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis in pick-and-roll, and they don't trust any other reserves to play more than spot minutes off of the bench. The real question is who they might consider taking out of the starting lineup.
P.J. Tucker would be the obvious choice. He came off the bench when Donte DiVincenzo was healthy, and as valuable as he was against Brooklyn, he doesn't have an obvious defensive assignment in this matchup. Milwaukee tried putting him on Chris Paul to facilitate switches onto Deandre Ayton through pick-and-roll, but that strategy led to a Game 1 loss. Putting Connaughton in Tucker's place would give the offense a sorely needed boost.
If Milwaukee wanted to get wild, though, it could slot Connaughton in for Brook Lopez. The Bucks had success defensively with Connaughton playing alongside their other four starters because he's more switchable than Lopez. The fringe benefit of bringing Lopez off of the bench is that it would allow him to play when Ayton isn't. Dario Saric tearing his ACL created a backup center void for Phoenix that Lopez could exploit against Torrey Craig or Frank Kaminsky.
Mike Budenholzer is a fairly conservative coach. He might not change his lineup no matter how bad this gets. But what he tried in Game 1 didn't work, and if we see a repeat performance in Game 2, his hand might be forced. Let's move on to today's top picks.
All lines via William Hill Sportsbook
Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks made 16 3-pointers in Game 1 against the Suns. That's not an enormous number by modern NBA or regular-season Bucks standards, but it's far beyond what Milwaukee typically gets in the postseason. In fact, that figure is tied for the most the Bucks have made in a game after the first round that Giannis Antetokounmpo has played in this postseason, and they got to that figure on 11 fewer attempts than they did the last time they reached 16. The overarching point here is that the Bucks probably aren't going to shoot that well again, but they still lost Game 1 by 13 points. There are areas Milwaukee can clean up, but unless Antetokounmpo looks like an MVP again on Thursday, it just seems unlikely that the Bucks will be able to score enough to keep up with a Suns team they match up poorly with. The pick: Suns -5.5
The logic behind that Suns pick should also lead us toward the Under. Game 1 only reached 223 points, and it not only got that hot Milwaukee 3-point shooting, but some incredible shot-making from Chris Paul as well. Even if Milwaukee runs the same defensive scheme in Game 2, Milwaukee is likely to get better shooting variance simply because no team is as good in the mid-range as the Suns were in Game 1. The margin might not change much, but expect both teams to score less than they did on Tuesday. The pick: Under 219.5
Milwaukee won only one quarter in Game 1. That was the fourth, when the Bucks played small. That doesn't mean they'll go small for all of Game 2, but it likely means they'll do so fairly frequently. Considering Ayton already had 19 boards in Game 1, getting to 13 in Game 2 shouldn't be too tall of an order if the Bucks do decide to stay small. The pick: Ayton over 12.5 rebounds