The Milwaukee Bucks are one game away from winning their first championship since 1971. The Bucks entered Phoenix on Saturday night and took the lead, 123-119, despite the Suns’ best shot of the year. first quarter of the game and need to survive the home team’s harsh Q4 comeback.
The tune was set early by the Suns defense and a hot start from Jae Crowder. Phoenix forced the four Bucks back in the first four and a half minutes of the action, while Crowder – who has always been bored with crowds during his NBA career – scored eight points early.
Jrue Holiday, who scored four early, made two fouls and was embargoed by Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, and the Suns responded brilliantly. The team immediately split from the round of 16-5 to double the Bucks, 32-16.
The Suns quarter-long lawn mower couldn’t have landed any more cleanly. The team leads, 37-21, after one frame, with Phoenix connecting with 14 of their 19 attempts from their court (73.7 percent) and five of their six triples, while turning six transfers Bucks into 11 points.
Milwaukee came on in the second minute with a newfound sense of urgency. While Giannis Antetokounmpo sat on the bench, the team took a 21-5 lead to equalize.
The Bucks continued to fight and with 5:41 left in the half, they took the lead when Antetokounmpo pushed the ball during the transition and found Bobby Portis to triple in the corner.
The rest of the half was a back-and-forth battle, but the Bucks, coincidentally, were able to lead 64-61 in the locker room. Holiday’s 15 points and 7 assists led the team, while Antetokounmpo had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, and each of Pat Connaughton, Khris Middleton and Portis had 9 points. The Suns have a 15-point lead from Booker, along with 12 from Deandre Ayton and 10 from Crowder.
Early Q3 saw Milwaukee continue to impose itself. Holiday’s defense and shooting, combined with Middleton’s other-worldly shots and Antetokounmpo’s excellent picking of his points, helped them push double digits.
Things are going so well that Antetokounmpo, who is not exactly known for this, has achieved a long two-step setback with the competing Ayton.
While the Suns didn’t let things completely get out of hand, Milwaukee took a 100-90 lead in the final half, thanks to some beautiful attacks and tight defense that made Phoenix able to do the job.
The beginning of Q4 saw Booker pressing, which didn’t always work out in a particular way. But the team was able to get the crowd to go with Booker driving and kicking, which resulted in some great ball movements and triple Paul.
The Suns continued to chip, with Paul bringing it down to six by throwing a backup line through Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks had a pretty good answer to this in Middleton, who kept slamming doors whenever the Sun looked like they were about to open.
But in the face of this, Booker is a monster. He hit the triple redundancy figure with less than 90 seconds to reduce everything to three.
Antetokounmpo missed a few shots from the charity ribbon, the Suns went the other way, and Paul captured it with a shot.
But the dagger only has 13.5 seconds left. Missing the Holiday resulted in the Sun getting a chance to go on. But he made up for it in a big way, pocketing Booker, going the other way, and hurling a lob that Antetokounmpo had thrown on contact.
Three-headed monster Antetokounmpo (32 points, nine rebounds, six assists), Middleton (29 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Holiday (27 points, 13 assists, four rebounds, three steals) ) lifted heavyweight, with a Connaughton throw in 14 points and six bounces off the bench. Booker’s 40 points and 21 points and 11 assists gave Phoenix, but the team didn’t have the horses to keep up with Milwaukee’s powerful attack.
Now, the series veers back to Wisconsin, where the Sun will be trying to do something that only happens once this season: Beat the Bucks on their home turf. The two teams will play on Tuesday, July 20, with everything slated to kick off at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.