Antetokounmpo, Jokic, Doncic headline First-Team All-NBA

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum have been selected to the 2021-22 All-NBA First Team, the league announced Tuesday.

The All-NBA Second Team consists of Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, and Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan.

The 2021-22 All-NBA Third Team is composed of Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James , Suns guard Chris Paul , Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, and Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.

Antetokounmpo was the only player to receive All-NBA First Team votes on all 100 ballots (500 total points), earning his fourth consecutive selection to the First Team and sixth All-NBA Team honor overall (First Team, Second Team and Third Team).  This is the third All-NBA First Team selection each for Doncic and Jokic, the 2021-22 NBA Most Valuable Player.  Booker is making his debut on the All-NBA Team, and Tatum joins Booker as a first-time selection to the All-NBA First Team.

With the selection of Antetokounmpo (27 years old), Doncic (23), Jokic (27), Booker (25) and Tatum (24), the All-NBA First Team is made up entirely of players age 27 or younger for the first time in 67 years (1954-55 season).

Embiid, the 2021-22 NBA scoring champion, has been named to the All-NBA Second Team for the fourth time in the last five seasons.  Morant, the 2021-22 NBA Most Improved Player, is an All-NBA Team honoree for the first time.  This is the 10th All-NBA Team selection for Durant, the eighth for Curry and the third for DeRozan.

This is the second All-NBA Team honor for both Towns and Siakam and the first for Young.  James has extended his NBA record for most All-NBA Team selections to 18.  Paul has been voted to the All-NBA Team for the 11th time, the second-most selections among active players behind James.

Nuggets’ Jokic wins NBA MVP for second consecutive season

For the second straight season, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić has been named the 2021-22 NBA Most Valuable Player, the league announced Wednesday.

He becomes the 13th player to win the award in consecutive seasons. The last player to win back-to-back MVP awards was Giannis Antetokounmpo(2019-2020).

Jokić received 875 points (65 first-place votes); Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid finished in second place with 706 points (26 first-place votes), and Antetokounmpo finished in third place with 595 points (nine first-place votes).

According to StatMuse, Jokic’s 65 first-place votes are the fewest for an MVP since Steve Nash in 2005-06.

The 27-year-old Jokić averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.47 steals, and 0.85 blocks per game, setting career highs in each category except assists (second highest). The seven-year veteran, who played 74 games and averaged 33.5 minutes, ranked sixth in the NBA in points, second in rebounds, eighth in assists, 12th steals, and 33rd in blocks per game.  

He became the first player in NBA history to record at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a season and the first player to average at least 25.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in a season. He led the NBA in triple-doubles with 19 and double-doubles with 66(both single-season team records).

This is the first time that both the top three and four of the top five finishers in voting for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award are international players, with Jokić (Serbia), Embiid (Cameroon), and Antetokounmpo (Greece) comprising the top three and Dončić (Slovenia) joining them in the top five. Jokić is the second European player to win the award more than once, joining Antetokounmpo, the MVP in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

You could make a case for Embiid, Antetokounmpo, or Jokić as the league MVP, but in the end, Jokić gets the nod. 

The voting results for the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award are below:

Cavs’ Allen: ‘I’m part of the top 24 players in the NBA at this All-Star Weekend’

After a long wait, Cavs center Jarrett Allen finally got the call for the 2022 All-Star Game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. Allen, who made the game for the first time in his career as a reserve, along with his teammate Darius Garland, is having a career year as he ranks among NBA leaders in FG% (2nd, .665), double-doubles (T-6th, 30), and RPG (10th, 11.1).

In addition, he’s recorded ten games this season of 15-plus points and 15-plus rebounds, and when he records a double-double, Cleveland is 25-5.

All told, Allen, 23, is averaging career-highs in points (16.2), rebounds (11.0), and assists (1.8) per game. 

“It’s still a lot to take in,” Allen said of making the All-Star Game. “I don’t think I’ve fully grasped the moment that I’m in. I’m part of the top 24 players in the NBA at this All-Star Weekend, so I’m just excited; I’m ready to take it all in and just enjoy every moment.”

The five-year veteran has turned himself into one of the better centers in basketball and discussed what it’s like to guard the better bigs in the game like Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid.

On Antetokounmpo:

“I always find it a fun matchup guarding Giannis. He has so many things to his game. He’s starting to add his jump shot to the game. Obviously, he’s a force going to the paint, so it’s an awesome matchup.”

On Jokic:

“Truly difficult to cover. If you let your guard down even for a split second, he’s going to make a pass to the corner. If you let your guard down for a split second, he’s going to somehow do three spin moves on you and have an open lay-up at the rim. He just has so many things to his package that you have to guard.”

On Embiid:

“I mean, obviously, Embiid had the triple-double on me, but Embiid is a brute. Embiid is going to back down; he’s going to punish you, and he has all the skill, but at the same time, Jokic might have a 15-15-15 night. Both matchups are tough.”

At this point, Cleveland(35-23) is the fourth seed in the East and is 2.5 games behind the Bulls and the Heat for the top spot in the conference. Many teams are bunched up in the East, and only five games separate the seventh-seeded Raptors from the Bulls and the Heat.

“I mean, you look at the East, it’s like you win three games, and now you’re all of a sudden a seven seed,” Allen said. “It’s a crazy race, and it’s those big moves that could change a lot.”

So much could change from this point until the end of the season. With 24 games left, Cleveland is in a prime position to do big things in the East. We’ll see how that works out the rest of the way, but for now, Allen should enjoy All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

 

Cavs’ Bickerstaff: ‘We take on all challenges’

On Wednesday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers ended their three-game homestand in style against the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Cleveland routed the Buck 115-99 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

With the win, the Cavs(30-19) have won three straight and eight of their last nine, while Milwaukee’s(30-20) three-game winning streak was snapped.

Here is the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ big win over the Bucks.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

Kevin Love and Cedi Osman: The difference makers off the Cavs’ bench against the Bucks. Love led the team with 25 points, including five threes and nine rebounds. It was Love’s second straight 20-plus point game. 

Osman scored 18 of 23 points in the first half, including a career-high-tying six threes. The five-year veteran also had a milestone as he grabbed his 1,000th career rebound.

Osman gave the Cavs a significant lift in the second quarter as he scored 15 points(most points he’s had in a quarter in his career), including four threes. Osman had a combined 21 points in the previous four games, but he busted out Wednesday night.

Because of the contributions of Love and Osman, Cleveland’s bench outscored Milwaukee’s bench 57-15.

-Darius Garland continues to play at an All-Star level. He had 19 points and eight assists. Garland battled a back injury throughout the contest, but he gutted it through and led the team. 

-Evan Mobley was in double figures for the 16th straight game as he had 16 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks.

-Jarrett Allen returned after missing Monday’s win over the Knicks with an illness. He had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. It was Allen’s fifth double-double in his last six appearances. 

Second and Third Quarters: The Bucks shot 73.7% from the floor and led 35-26 after one quarter. Then, Osman and Love happened in the second quarter, and the Cavs woke up.

Cleveland shot 50% from the field and made seven threes(7/12) in the second. Love and Osman combined for 21 of Cleveland’s 39 points in the quarter. Milwaukee led the Cavs 37-26 at the 11:41 mark of the second quarter. Cleveland would outscore the Bucks 36-14 to take their largest lead in the quarter of 11 points(62-51).

Cleveland outscored the Bucks 39-22 in the second quarter and took a 65-57 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Cavs continued to dominate the world champions. Cleveland outscored the Bucks 30-20 in the quarter and held Milwaukee to 26.3% from the field, including 1/7 from deep. 

The Cavaliers outscored the Bucks 69-42 in the second and third quarters. Cleveland led Milwaukee 95-77 after three quarters. The Cavs had their largest lead of 21 points in the third. 

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

You beat the world champions by 16 points; it’s all good in the Land.

Bottom Line:

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the team’s victory over the Nets on MLK Day was a signature win. Well, this win was probably better. Here’s why: First, the Bucks are 18-3 this season when Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday are in the lineup. Next, Milwaukee was on a three-game winning streak, and finally, the Cavs not only beat the Bucks, but they blew them out, so yes, this is the Cavs’ signature win of the season. 

Cleveland is the third seed in the East and is now 1.5 games behind the Heat for the top spot in the conference. The Cavs are for real, and if they keep winning, maybe they can grab the top spot in the East.

“We take on all challenges,” Bickerstaff said of the Cavs. “We don’t run from anybody. We don’t back down. We give everybody our best shot.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland will have a few days off before they travel to Detroit to battle the Pistons Sunday night.

Best of the Rest:

-Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with a game-high 26 points. He also added nine rebounds and three assists. Bobby Portis had 22 points, and Middleton added 21. 

-Cleveland had six players in double figures against the Bucks. The Cavs recorded 19 threes in this one.

-In their last 12 games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Cavs are 10-2.

Watch below as Love, Osman, and Allen react to the big win over the Bucks:

Cavs’ Allen: ‘We’re going to fight till the end’

Coming off a tough loss to the Jazz at home Sunday night, the Cavaliers went into Milwaukee to face the world champion Bucks.

Cleveland trailed Milwaukee by 10 entering the fourth quarter and would cut the lead to 98-96 with just over seven minutes to go. However, the Bucks would go on a 9-1 run to put the game away and win 112-104 at Fiserv Forum Monday night.

After winning four straight, the Cavaliers(13-12) have dropped two consecutive games, while the Bucks(16-9) have won two straight and 10 of 11. 

Here is the Great, Not So Great, and Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Bucks.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

-Jarrett Allen’s double-double streak ended at seven games, but he had a very good performance Monday night. He led the way for Cleveland with 25 points(10/12 FG), nine rebounds and two blocks. Allen is getting it done and is second in the NBA in field goal percentage(71%).

-Lauri Markkanen had a solid performance. He scored 20 points, including four threes, and had seven rebounds.

-Kevin Love gave the Cavs great minutes off the bench. Love scored 15 points, including a game-high five threes in 19 minutes. The 13-year veteran has been in double figures in four out of the last five games.

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

After two straight 30-point games, Darius Garland struggled with his shot. He was 3/12 from the floor and finished with only 10 points. Garland did add nine assists. However, he led the team in turnovers(four).

-Isaac Okoro was 0/6 from the floor, including 0/3 from downtown. He had a team-worst -20 rating.

-Playing the second game of a back-to-back can be taxing, and the Cavs played like a tired team Monday. They shot 39% from the field and 15/46 from three-point range. At times, it appeared Cleveland fell too much in love with the three-point shot as they launched more threes than two-point shots.

Bottom Line:

Beating the Jazz(16-7) and Bucks(16-9) on back-to-back nights would be tough for any team in the NBA. To the Cavs’ credit, they were a Garland three away from beating the Jazz, and they competed and battled against the Bucks. However, they fell short, which is not the end of the world when you consider where the Cavs are right now.

“We’re going to fight till the end,” Allen said. “That’s the main thing I learned about this team, about the guys. No matter how we start the game, no matter who’s in front of us, big or small, we’re going to go out there and fight till the end.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland returns home to play another tough team when they battle the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night.

Best of the Rest:

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for Milwaukee as he scored 15 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth and grabbed 12 rebounds on his 27th birthday. Khris Middleton had 21 points and eight assists, Jrue Holiday scored 20 points and dished out eight assists, and Bobby Portis had a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

-Evan Mobley had 12 points and six rebounds for Cleveland. However, Mobley’s streak of 13 games with a block was snapped against Milwaukee.

Watch below as Markkanen and Allen react to the loss against the Bucks:

76ers’ Rivers: ‘Tyrese [Maxey] was sensational’

On Tuesday night, the Philadelphia 76ers(8-4) hosted the world champion, Milwaukee Bucks(5-6). 

However, Philadelphia was without their top three scorers in Joel Embiid(Health and Safety Protocols), Tobias Harris(Health and Safety Protocols), and Seth Curry(Foot contusion). Also, they were missing Matisse Thybulle(Health and Safety Protocols), and of course, Ben Simmons.

Philly battled for the whole game but did not have enough as they were outscored 27-16 in the fourth and fell to Milwaukee 118-109.

Here is the Great, Not so Great, and Bottom Line of Philly’s loss to Milwaukee:

The Great for the 76ers:

-Tyrese Maxey did everything in his power to lead the Sixers to victory. The second-year guard led Philadelphia with a game-high-tying and season-high 31 points (12-24 FG), including a career-best four made threes, along with five boards and four assists. Maxey set a new single-quarter career-high with 17 points in the first period (7-9 FG, 3-4 3FG).

-Georges Niang scored 12 of his season-high 21 points against the Bucks off the bench, including five threes. According to Stathead, this is the 22nd time of Niang’s career where he has scored at least 10 points in a half.

-Andre Drummond has been great this season. He had another double-double with 17 points, a game-high 20 rebounds, and two blocks. This is Drummond’s second straight game of at least 20 rebounds(25 rebounds against Knicks on Monday night), leaving him tied for the fifth-most double-digit rebounding games in the league this year. Through 12 games, Drummond is the second player with consecutive games of at least 10 points and 20 rebounds.

-Shake Milton started for the injured Seth Curry and had a solid performance with 20 points, six assists, and four rebounds.

Not so Great for the 76ers:

Philadelphia did not shoot the ball all that great on Tuesday night, which is understandable. The 76ers shot 41% from the field.

Bottom Line:

Look, it would have been amazing if the 76ers had won this game, and while there are no moral victories in this league, Philadelphia might have earned a moral victory. Without Embiid and Harris, it’s going to be tough, but maybe they can find a way to steal a few games without their top players.

“I don’t know if anything surprises me with these guys,” 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said postgame. “They play hard; they try to figure it out… Tyrese [Maxey] was sensational tonight, kept attacking, Georges [Niang] gave us everything he had, I thought [Drummond] offensively on the glass was really good.”

What’s Next:

Philadelphia finishes their three-game homestand on Thursday night against the Raptors.

Best of the Rest:

Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Antetokounmpo has now scored at least 30 points in four games this season; Grayson Allen set a season-high with 25 points in the game, and Bobby Portis added 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Giannis: ‘I made my free throws tonight, and I’m a freaking champion’

The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions, and the main reason is their star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-time MVP had 50 points(17-19 FT), 14 rebounds, and five blocks shots as the Bucks defeated the Suns 105-98 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday night.

After losing the first two games of this series, Milwaukee, who got their first NBA title since 1971, won four straight to win the series 4-2.

Antetokounmpo, named Finals MVP, scored 33 points in the second half of Game 6, which marked the second time he scored 30-plus points in the second half of a game in this series. According to Elias Sports, Antetokounmpo is the first player to record multiple 30-point halves in a single NBA Finals over the last 40 years. Additionally, he’s the seventh player in the history of the NBA to score 50 points in the Finals.

When Antetokounmpo hyperextended his left knee against the Hawks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, many thought he would not be able to get back on the court again this season, but he got back on the court and averaged 35.5 points on 62% shooting from the field, 13.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game in the Finals. 

It’s been a long journey for the “Greek Freak” to an NBA title, and according to him, he was not sure it would happen.

“I started playing basketball just to help my family,” he said after the game. “Tried to get them out of the struggle, the challenges we were facing when we were kids. But I never thought I’m going to be 26 years old, with my team playing the NBA Finals. Just playing — like, I was just happy just being like not even winning, just being a part of this, of this journey. But I never thought I would be sitting here with this right here and this right here (the championship and MVP trophies.) We’ve come a long way.”

Antetokounmpo has had his struggles from the free-throw line throughout his career, but he quieted a lot of people by going 17-19 from the line on Tuesday night, which he discussed postgame.

“People told me I cannot make free throws,” he said. “I made my free throws tonight, and I’m a freaking champion. I made them when I’m supposed to make them. I’m joking — actually, I’m not (laughter).”

Before the start of the season, the five-time All-Star signed a five-year, $228 million extension, the largest contract in league history. After some playoffs failures, including losing to the Heat in the second round of the playoffs last season, some thought Antetokounmpo would go elsewhere, but he stayed in Milwaukee, and now he’s a champion.

“But coming back, I was like, this is my city,” he said. “They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us. Even when we lost, the city was still — went outside, and you know, obviously, I wanted to get the job done. But that’s my stubborn side. It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. I could go — I don’t put — I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship, but this is the hard way to do it, and this is the way to do it, and we did it. (Expletive) did it. We did it, man.”

Antetokounmpo was remarkable in this series, and with the help of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and others, he’s finally a champion.

 

 

Giannis on block on Ayton: ‘I thought I was going to get dunked on’

If the Phoenix Suns fall short in the NBA Finals, they might look back at Game 4. Phoenix built a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but Devin Booker, who had a bounce-back game with 42 points after scoring 10 points on Sunday, had to leave with his fifth foul with over 11 minutes left in the fourth.

When Booker returned midway through the fourth, the Suns still had a three-point lead, but Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton turned it on. He scored 14 of his 40 points in the final quarter, including the game-winner with just over a minute left in the contest as Milwaukee defeated Phoenix 109-103 at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night to tie the series up at 2.

“As far as the fourth quarter, late in the fourth quarter, we just ran sets that allowed me to get to my spots,” Middleton said. “After that, I just got to make reads. Whether to shoot, whether to find an open guy, Giannis(Antetokounmpo) on a roll. It’s just reading the defense at that point. Just luckily, thankfully, I hit some shots.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo added on Middleton: “But that’s what he does down the stretch. We want him to have the ball. We want him to be the decision-maker. We know he’s going to take big shots, and tonight he was incredible.”

It was not all about Middleton in the fourth. With the Bucks up 101–99 late in the game, Antetokounmpo, who had 26 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists in Game 4, made the defensive play of the game and maybe the series. Booker threw an alley-oop pass to Deandre Ayton, and the first-team all-defensive player made a fantastic block, which saved the game and maybe the series for the Bucks.

“Just a hustle play,” Antetokounmpo said on the block. “I thought I was going to get dunked on, to be honest with you. But you know, going down the stretch, do whatever it takes to win the game. Just put yourself in a position that can win the game. I saw the play coming. I saw that Chris(Devin Booker) was going to throw the lob, and I was just going to jump vertical toward the rim. Hopefully, I can be there in time, and I was there in time and was able to get a good block and go down and get two points. So it was a great hustle play.”

Watch below:

While Booker shined for Phoenix, Chris Paul struggled. He had 10 points(5/13 shooting), seven assists, and five turnovers. The most significant turnover was with 32.4 seconds left and the Suns trailing 101-99. Paul would lose the ball, and ultimately Middleton would put the game away with a layup in transition.

“It was me. I had five of them,” Paul said about the turnovers. “It was bad decision making. That time we were down two, and I tried to cross over right there, slipped, turned it over. I had some bad passes in the first half.”

Game 5 is Saturday night in Phoenix. It’s the best of three at this point. The Suns had an excellent opportunity to win Game 4 and wasted an outstanding performance by Booker, but now they go back to Phoenix and hope to get right. For the Bucks, they have been in an 0-2 hole before and know what it takes to get out of it.

Notes: 

-Antetokounmpo left the game at the 8:29 mark of the first quarter in Game 4. The reason why? He had to “tinkle.”

“How do you guys say politely? I wanted to take a tinkle. A tinkle,” he said. “I wanted to take a tinkle and came back (laughter). That’s polite, right?

-According to Elias Sports, Booker had the most points in Finals history by a player with 10 or fewer points in the previous game.

 

Bucks’ Middleton: When he’s(Antetokounmp) rolling sometimes like he was these last two games, you’ve just got to give him the ball’

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had another big-time performance in the NBA Finals, and this time, it translated to a victory. The two-time MVP had his second straight 40-point game in this series and scored 41 points, including 13/17 from the free-throw line, to go along with a team-high 13 rebounds and six assists as the Bucks routed the Suns 120-100 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum on Sunday night.

Antetokounmpo, who had 42 points and 12 rebounds in Game 2, and Shaquille O’Neal are the only two players in NBA history with 40-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in back-to-back Finals games.

“When he’s rolling sometimes like he was these last two games, you’ve just got to give him the ball, give him his space and allow him to go to work,” Khris Middleton, who had 21 points, seven assists, and six assists on Sunday, said about Antetokounmpo. 

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer added on Antetokounmpo: “He’s just doing whatever it takes to help his team, to help us. He’s in an aggressive mindset. He always plays that way. But I thought he played with the pass well. He made some great reads, found guys, played against the zone. He just did a little bit of everything. Offensive boards, putbacks. We need a lot from him, and that’s what he does.”

Phoenix still leads the series 2-1, and Game 4 is on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

Game 3 was a must-win situation for Milwaukee. The Bucks were down 0-2 against the Nets in the second-round, but won the series in 7.

Milwaukee did what they needed to do on Sunday night, which Antetokounmpo discussed postgame.

“We know what kind of game this was going to be,” Antetokounmpo said. “We knew that if we lose the game, you are in the hole, 3-0 or whatever the case might be. We knew that we had to come here and play great basketball, so I knew that.”

The Bucks shot ten more free throws(26-16) than Phoenix in Game 3, and Suns C Deandre Ayton, who had 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter and nine rebounds on Sunday night, was saddled with foul trouble. While he did not want to complain about the officiating, Suns head coach Monty Williams pointed out the free-throw disparity. 

“I’m not going to get into the complaining publicly about fouls. Just not going to do that,” Williams said. “But you can look — we had 16 free throws tonight. One person had 17.”

Devin Booker struggled with his shot in Game 3 and was 3/14 from the field with 10 points, but the two-time All-Star expects to bounce back in Game 4.

“It wasn’t well, obviously,” Booker said. “But there’s nights like that. The most important part to me is winning the game, and we didn’t do that, so I’m more frustrated about that. But we have a few days off here. We’re going to get back right and going to go over film and be ready Wednesday.”

This effort was expected out of Milwaukee in Game 3. It should be interesting to see Phoenix’s response in Game 4. However, the Bucks, who are 8-1 at home this postseason, are back in this series.

Notes:

-Jrue Holiday had his best performance of the series on Sunday night. Holiday had 21 points, nine assists, and five assists. 

-Chris Paul led the Suns with 19 points and nine assists in Game 3. With the loss on Sunday night, Paul is now 0-12 when Scott Foster officiates his games in the playoffs.

Suns’ Paul on Bridges: ‘He’s a winner’

The Phoenix Suns are now two games away from winning their first NBA title after defeating the Bucks 118-108 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on Thursday night.

Devin Booker scored a team-high 31 points tonight to go along with five rebounds and six assists. Booker knocked down seven three-pointers on 12 attempts, while Mikal Bridges scored a playoff career-high 27 points in Game 2 on 8-of-15 shooting (3-of-9 3FG) to go along with seven rebounds.

The Suns are 11-1 this postseason when Bridges scores in double figures.

Chris Paul, who had 23 points, eight assists, and four rebounds on Thursday night, believes Bridges is a winner.

“He’s a winner,” Paul said. “When we won the Western Conference finals, I looked at him, and I had a flashback of him being at Villanova. I remember him winning a championship there. He’s just a winner. He’s going to do whatever you need him to do, offensively or defensively, and it’s good to see him playing like this.”

The Suns knocked down 20 three-pointers on 40 attempts on Thursday night. It marked just the third time in NBA Finals history that a team has made 20 threes or more in a Finals game. Additionally, the 20 threes marked a franchise record for threes in a postseason game.

Phoenix led by as many as 11 points in the first half and as much as 15 points in the third quarter, and then Giannis Antetokounmpo came alive. The two-time MVP scored 20 of his game-high 42 points in the quarter and was able to get the lead to as low as five points in third, but it wasn’t enough. Antetokounmpo also added a team-high 12 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.

Game 3 is Sunday night in Milwaukee.

The Bucks are down 0-2 in this series, and they have been here before in the second round against Brooklyn, and ultimately, they were able to win that series in 7, so Antetokounmpo is still confident.

“We’ve been here before, and we were able to get the job done,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hopefully, we can put ourselves in position, and we can believe in one another, and we can play together, and we can have fun. We can compete, and we can dive on the floor, we can make shots, put ourselves in a position to win the game. But like we know what the deal is, man. Like we got to go back home and protect home.”

The series does not start until the road team wins, so let’s see what happens in Milwaukee.

Notes:

-According to Stathead, Antetokounmpo became just the fourth player in NBA Finals history to record 40-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and 3-plus blocks in a Finals game, joining Shaquille O’Neal (3 times), LeBron James and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

In addition, Antetokounmpo got to the free throw line 18 times, knocking down 11 of them. It marked the most free throw attempts by a single player in an NBA Finals game since June 7, 2015 (LeBron James).

-Deandre Ayton recorded his fifth-straight double-double tonight and 13th of the postseason, notching 10 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four assists and a game-high three steals. With his double-double tonight, Ayton moved into sole possession of second place for the most double-doubles in one postseason by a Suns player in franchise history, trailing only Charles Barkley’s mark of 22 during the 1993 playoffs.