The Suns want to build a wall and stop Giannis in Game 4.
In fact, Chris Paul has been shouting it from the rooftops every since Game 3 ended. The panacea for the rest of the series for the Suns is their wall.
The problem is this is the exact opposite of what they should be doing.
Teams have deployed the “wall” defense against Giannis for the last few years. Its a major reason why a two time MVP has been prematurely dispatched from the playoffs the last three seasons. Its also the reason why this season despite having incredible regular season numbers, almost no one took Giannis serious as an MVP candidate: he had not shown an ability to overcome the playoff wall and thus his regular season numbers felt artificially inflated.
It's a logically sound defensive strategy but it's still the wrong one for the Suns.
There are two problems as I see it:
- The Suns don’t have the bodies or the size. Phoenix wouldn’t really be building a wall with its lack of big men on the roster, more like a child’s safety gate. Anyone that has kids knows that those safety gates on a stairwell are great for keeping toddlers out of harms way but nothing more than a massive inconvenience for adults. The Suns version of the wall would be the same. Maybe it keeps Jrue Holiday out of the paint but it would be nothing more than an inconvenience for Giannis.
- The key to winning their first championship isn’t stopping Giannis.
Let’s drill down into this one for a second.
In my opinion, you aren’t stopping Giannis. He’s peaking in a way we’ve seen other superstars peak. Shaq in 2000, Dwyane Wade in 2006, Lebron in 2016.
He’s playing with an incredible amount of confidence, is absolutely locked in and operating on almost a different plane than every other player on the floor. Throw in Giannis is the absolute best case scenario as the long term heir apparent to Lebron James as the face of the NBA and its best to just accept reality that Giannis is going to get his.
What I’m more concerned about is Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday getting their fuse lit.
If the Suns build a wall and collapse on Giannis and do everything they can to take the ball out of his hands, its just going to lead to more and better opportunities for Middleton and Holiday. If that happens, and they get on a roll, the series is going to be over and the trophy is headed back to Milwaukee.
I would cede Giannis scoring 40+ with limited pushback. The Suns have beaten the Bucks twice in three games this season in which Giannis scored 40 or more points. I want Deandre Ayton staying on the floor as much as possible for his offense and rebounding. I don’t want to task him with slowing down Giannis. Play smart, play sound but don’t be too aggressive defensively.
Then I’m focusing my defensive efforts where the Suns defensive strength already lies: their wings.
I’m asking Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Cam Johnson to bottle up Middleton and Holiday at all times. Not slowing down Giannis, stopping Middleton and Holiday. I’m forcing the Bucks to try to win this series with a formula of Giannis and PJ Tucker or Pat Connaughton or Bobby Portis or Brook Lopez.
Building a wall against Giannis has worked before but I don’t think it will work for the Suns.
If you build it, the title will almost certainly not come to Phoenix.