NBA Finals: Bucks rally with Suns and take 3-2 lead


After recording their third straight win, 123-119 in Game 5 on Saturday, the Bucks are looking to regain that momentum in Milwaukee for Game 6 on Tuesday. A win there and the Bucks would clinch their second NBA title in franchise history and the first since 1971.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and nine rebounds, Khris Middleton had 29 and seven rebounds, and Jrue Holiday added 27 points and 13 assists for Milwaukee. Holiday also stole Devin Booker in the dying moments of the fourth quarter to thwart a late return offer from Phoenix.

“It makes everything more balanced,” Middleton said of the three-pronged attack. “It makes life easier for everyone knowing that when we play together and when we play on all cylinders, we are hard to keep.… When we all play well, we are one of the best teams for sure. . “

The Bucks overcame an early 16-point deficit by exploding for 43 points in the second quarter.

Milwaukee became the second team in NBA Finals history to lead at halftime after trailing up to 15 points after the first quarter. The Boston Celtics already accomplished the feat in the 1957 final against the St. Louis Hawks.

“We kept our cool, we kept fighting,” Antetokounmpo said in an ESPN post-match interview. “It’s the NBA Finals, so you’ve got to give it your all. And that’s what the team did tonight.”

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) is defended by Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez in the first half of Game 5 of the NBA Basketball Finals on Saturday, July 17, 2021, in Phoenix.

Booker scored 40 points for the second game in a row. It was the fourth time he reached the 40-point plateau in the playoffs.

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Chris Paul finished with 21 points and 11 assists, and Deandre Ayton had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix.

“We knew it wouldn’t be easy. We didn’t expect it to be,” said Paul. “It’s tough. The coach has said throughout the year, ‘All you want is on the other side of the hard’, and it doesn’t get any harder than that.”

The Suns reduced a 10-point deficit to start the fourth quarter to three after Booker exhausted a 3-point pointer. Antetokounmpo missed both free-throw attempts on the next possession and Paul lay-up to reduce Milwaukee’s lead to 120-119 with 56.6 seconds left.

Holiday stole the ball from Booker and set Antetokounmpo for an alley-oop with 13.5 seconds left. Antetokounmpo missed the ensuing free throw, but Milwaukee regained possession and Phoenix quickly fouled Middleton. He made one of two attempts to make it a two-possession game.

Phoenix Suns goalie Chris Paul (3) shoots as Milwaukee Bucks forward PJ Tucker (17) and center Brook Lopez (11) defend during the first half of Game 5 of the NBA Basketball Finals on Saturday July 17, 2021, in Phénix.

The Suns were the NBA’s best road team during the regular season. Now they’ll have to win in Milwaukee to force a Game 7.

“We have to win a game to get them back on the plane. That’s it,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said.

The Suns were scorching from the start, making 14 of 19 shots from the ground and 5 of 6 to 3 points to take a 37-21 lead after the first quarter.

The Bucks responded with a 29-12 run to start the second quarter. Bobby Portis capped the surge with a 3-point pointer to give Milwaukee a 50-49 lead.

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