DimeMag

The Bucks Moved One Game Away From A Championship With A Game 5 Win In Phoenix

The Milwaukee Bucks are one game away from winning their first championship since 1971. The Bucks walked into Phoenix on Saturday night and managed to come out on top, 123-119, despite taking the Suns’ best shot during the game’s first quarter and needing to survive a torrid fourth quarter comeback by the home side.

The tone was set early by the Suns’ defense and a hot start from Jae Crowder. Phoenix forced four Bucks turnovers in the first four and a half minutes of action, while Crowder — who has always fed off of crowds in his NBA career — scored eight early points.

Jrue Holiday, who scored four early points, picked up two fouls and was autobenched by Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, and the Suns responded in a big way. The team immediately ripped off a 16-5 run to double up the Bucks, 32-16.

The Suns’ quarter-long haymaker could not have landed any more cleanly. The team led, 37-21, after one frame, with Phoenix connecting on 14 of their 19 attempts from the field (73.7 percent) and five of their six triples, while turning six Bucks turnovers into 11 points.

Milwaukee came out in the second with a newfound sense of urgency. While Giannis Antetokounmpo sat on the bench, the team ripped off a 21-5 run to tie the game.

The Bucks kept fighting, and with 5:41 left in the quarter, they took the lead when Antetokounmpo pushed the ball in transition and found Bobby Portis for a triple in the corner.

The remainder of the half was a back-and-forth battle, but the Bucks, improbably, were able to take a 64-61 lead into the locker room. Holiday’s 15 points and seven assists led the team, while Antetokounmpo had 12 points, four rebounds, and four assists, and each of Pat Connaughton, Khris Middleton, and Portis had nine. The Suns were led by Booker’s 15, along with 12 points from Deandre Ayton and 10 from Crowder.

The start of the third quarter saw Milwaukee continue to impose itself. Holiday’s defense and shot-making, combined with Middleton’s otherworldly shot-making and Antetokounmpo picking his spots brilliantly, saw them push their lead to double-digits.

Things were going so well that Antetokounmpo, who isn’t exactly known for this sort of thing, hit a stepback long two with Ayton contesting.

While the Suns didn’t let things get completely out of hand, Milwaukee took a 100-90 lead into the final frame, thanks to some absolutely beautiful offensive execution and swarming defense that made Phoenix work for everything.

The start of the fourth quarter saw Booker pressing, which did not always work particularly way. But the team was able to get the crowd going with Booker driving and kicking, which led to some terrific ball movement and a Paul triple.

The Suns kept chipping away, with Paul getting it down to six by throwing a fallaway over Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks had a pretty good answer for this in Middleton, who kept slamming the door whenever the Suns looked like they were preparing to burst open.

But in the face of this, Booker was a monster. He hit a fallaway triple with less than 90 seconds left to get things down to three.

Antetokounmpo missed a pair of shots from the charity stripe, the Suns went the other way, and Paul got it to one with a layup.

But the dagger came with 13.5 seconds left. A Holiday miss led to the Suns having a chance to go ahead. But he made up for it in a big way, picking Booker’s pocket, going in the other direction, and throwing a lob that Antetokounmpo threw down through contact.

The three-headed monster of Antetokounmpo (32 points, nine rebounds, six assists), Middleton (29 points, seven rebounds, five assists), and Holiday (27 points, 13 assists, four rebounds, three steals) did the heavy lifting, with Connaughton pitching in 14 points and six rebounds off the bench. Booker’s 40 and Paul’s 21 points and 11 assists stood out for Phoenix, but the team just did not have the horses to keep up with Milwaukee’s high-powered offense.

Now, the series shifts back to Wisconsin, where the Suns will try to do something that has only happened once this postseason: Beat the Bucks on their home court. The two teams will square off on Tuesday, July 20, with things slated to tip off at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.

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