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.”
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.
-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.
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.
-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.
The Phoenix Suns won Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Bucks on Tuesday night, but it came with a price; forward/center Dario Saric sustained a torn ACL in his right knee, the team announced on Wednesday.
Saric, 27, will miss the rest of the series. The fourth-year player injured his right knee in the first quarter of Game 1.
“It’s just one of those situations that literally breaks your heart,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said on Wednesday. “Dario is a guy that I’ve been with twice. I coached him in Philly, and to get a chance to be with him here, he’s what Suns basketball is about. Hard worker, unbelievable guy, and he was so looking forward to playing in these Finals. And to play a few minutes and have that kind of injury, it was a tough thing to hear this morning when I talked to the staff, and they told me what was going on.
“I spoke with him, and obviously, he was shocked and just felt pretty bad. So I just told the team today to check on him and Karla. He’s got a road ahead of him, but he’s a diligent worker, and we know he’ll be back and better. But it was a shock to see him go down like that.”
Devin Booker added on Saric: “It hurts. It hurt our whole group. Dario is our guy. He’s our energy in the locker room that you guys don’t get to see, but we love him, and we are here with him. Obviously an unfortunate turn of events, but we’re going to reach out to him; we’re going to make sure he’s mentally right and that he’s in the right spirit, and we’re on the road to recovery. As far as the court goes, obviously, we’re going to be missing his presence and the things that he does out there, but everybody is going to have to give a little bit more.”
Saric averaged 8.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest in the regular season.
Without Saric, Frank Kaminsky will get more time, but this is a blow for the Suns. Hopefully, for Saric, he can get himself right for next season.
The Phoenix Suns are in the NBA Finals because of their big three of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton, and those three were huge in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Bucks on Monday night at Phoenix Suns Arena.
Paul had 32 points and nine assists, Booker scored 27 points, and Deandre Ayton added 22 points and 19 rebounds as the Suns defeated the Buck 118-105.
Phoenix had six players in double figures.
The trio combined for 81 points, each scoring 20-plus points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, tonight marked the fourth time in NBA Finals history that three or more teammates, each making their Finals debut, scored 20-plus points in the same game.
The third quarter was all about Paul, who was 6/7 from the field, including 3/3 from three-point range to score 16 points. After leading by eight points at halftime, the Suns were able to push their lead to as much as 20 points in the third because of Paul.
“When it’s going like that, you just want to space the floor well and let him orchestrate,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said about Paul after the game. “I thought he was making the right plays. They were switching a ton, and we have to offer that space and play faster if he gets off of the ball. But he was making shots, and when he’s in that mode, we just feed off of that. But I don’t have a marker or a segment in the game where I’m like, here he goes. It just happens. Our guys feed off of those moments in the game.”
Phoenix had a lot of success on the pick-and-roll, and according to Booker, the Suns wanted to take advantage of any switches on defense from Milwaukee.
“We have to punish teams for switching 1 through 5 like that,” Booker said. “Like I just heard Chris say, we prepare for any type of defense, and we watch a lot of basketball, and where we have been most successful in that situation is space out. So, every time he(Paul) shoots it, we think it’s going in.”
Paul added: “We just feed off of each other, and it just sort of all game long — this guy, that guy, and we just try to find a way to win.”
Milwaukee did get Giannis Antetokounmpo back for Game 1 of the NBA Finals after he missed the last two games of the Eastern Conference finals due to a hyperextended left knee. Antetokounmpo had 20 points and 17 rebounds on Tuesday night.
“It was tough. You know, obviously, I had to do my best to get back,” Antetokounmpo said. “I had to do my best to get back. Listen to my medical staff. I did the right treatment. Took care of my body and supported my teammates, and now I’m back.”
Antetokounmpo is back, which is good, but Milwaukee is going to have to do a better job on their pick-and-roll defense in Game 2. As stated numerous times in the playoffs, it’s all about adjustments, and the Bucks will have to make adjustments in Game 2 on Thursday night in Phoenix.
-Khris Middleton scored a team-high 29 points tonight to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Middleton shot 12-of-26 from the field and knocked down 5 of his 12 three-point attempts. His 26 field goal attempts tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the fourth-most field goal attempts by a Bucks player in an NBA Finals game in franchise history.
-Mikal Bridges added 14 points tonight, his 11th game of this postseason with 10-plus points and first since Game 3 against the Clippers on June 24. The Suns are 10-1 this postseason when Bridges scores in double figures.
-Cam Johnson and Cameron Payne both came off the bench tonight to each score 10 points in the win. Both knocked down 2 three-pointers, while Johnson added 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
-Phoenix took advantage of the free-throw line on Tuesday night. The Suns were 25/26(96.2%) from line. Booker led the way going 10/10.
For Suns backup point guard Cam Payne, it’s been a difficult journey to the NBA Finals. Payne was a first-round pick of the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2015 out of Murray State. During his time with OKC, Payne struggled with injuries and was eventually traded to the Chicago Bulls.
The 26-year-old Payne again struggled with injuries with the Bulls. After two and half seasons with the Bulls, Payne was waived by Chicago. He would bounce around the NBA and be out of the league in 2019.
The five-year veteran eventually went to China and the G League.
“Everybody in my family, they’ve seen me play,’ Payne said during media availability on Monday. “They always want to see me play. So, for me, it kind of hurt to go back home, and everybody ask you, what you doing? Who you playing with next year? It would be questions like that, that kind of — you’re like, man, I ain’t really trying to answer that question. Obviously, I’m trying to work out. Obviously, I’m trying to make a team. So, it’s a lot of things that come with working hard, and those are one of the pillars for me, people asking what you’re doing, who you going to play with next year, little things like that always in the back of my head when I’m working out because I never want to be back at the bottom, going to China and stuff like that. It’s just built me a little different coming in on this next go-round. So just keep my head down, keep working, do it for the name on the back of my jersey and keep my head up. That’s about it.”
Ultimately, Payne got another shot. On June 30, 2020, Payne was signed by the Suns as they entered the bubble in Orlando. Phoenix went 8-0 in the bubble, and Payne was solid, averaging 10.9 points and 3.0 assists per game. This season, Payne was solid, but his real impact came in the playoffs, more specifically, the Western Conference finals.
Without Chris Paul(health & safety protocols) in Games 1 and 2 against the Clippers, Payne came up big. He was steady in Phoenix’s Game 1 win and broke out in Game 2. Payne had a career-high(playoff or regular season) 29 points to go along with nine assists and helped the Suns take a 2-0 series against the Clippers. Phoenix may not have defeated Los Angeles without the contributions of Payne.
6/30/2020: Payne signed by the Suns
6/30/2021: Suns defeat Clippers to advance to the NBA Finals.
According to Payne, being in the NBA Finals is totally unexpected.
“To be honest, when I first signed, I just wanted to be able to get some time in the bubble and try to make someone’s roster next — this season, basically,” he said. “I had a pretty good bubble run. I didn’t think all this was going to come about, us making it to the Finals. I kind of feel like we were going to be able to make the playoffs, but here? No, not even a little bit. It’s a crazy roller coaster this thing here. Life’s crazy. So I just put the work in, put the time in, prayed on it, everything, and I’m just going to keep on doing the same thing, and hopefully, we can come in on top.”
No one expected this from the Suns and Payne, but for him to be at this moment, at this point, is a testament to hard work and dedication. Now, he’s four wins away from an NBA title. What a difference a year makes.
After 47 years, the Milwaukee Bucks are back in the NBA Finals. Khris Middleton scored 23 of his game-high 32 points in the third quarter, and Jrue Holiday added 27 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists as the Bucks defeated the Hawks 118-107 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at State Farm Arena on Saturday night.
Milwaukee wins the series 4-2, and now, they get ready for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.
Despite not having Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed Games 5 and 6 due to a hyperextended left knee, the Bucks found a way. Getting to the NBA Finals was not an easy journey for the Bucks, which their head coach Mike Budenholzer discussed after the game.
“Yeah, what a roller coaster of emotions, especially this series,” Budenholzer said. “But the series before and opening with Miami, and how good they are. So just impressed with the resilience of the group, the character of the group. They just have a focus, and an edge that’s put us in a good place put us in an opportunity to keep playing. And so you’ve got to deal with all those emotions, everything that goes into each round, and this group has been able to do that. It’s impressive, but we’ve got more to do.”
Middleton and Antetokounmpo came into the NBA together with the Bucks, and the two went through the highs and lows in Milwaukee, including some playoff disappointments over the years, to get to this point. Middleton reflected on that journey following the victory.
“Honestly, it’s been a long journey, but it’s been a great journey,” Middleton said. “It’s been worth it. We put ourselves in position to be in the NBA Finals. After winning 15 games in our first year here and seven years not making the playoffs, to the last two years thinking we had a chance and just didn’t do enough, and now we’re here. This is what we’ve work for. Extremely happy that we’re still playing.
According to Holiday, this journey to the Finals is a story he will tell his children.
“Man, it’s been — it’s a story that I get to tell my kids, and it’s a story I get to tell people, and that’s one of the coolest things,” Holiday said. “Playing against the Heat and what we did against them; and then coming back against Brooklyn, one of the most talented teams in the league, or ever, honestly, against one of the best, what, top three of the greatest scorers of our game; and then a great Atlanta team, a young team but that have some crucial players.”
Last season, the Atlanta Hawks missed the playoffs. This season, the Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference finals, which unexpected to many, so no matter what happened in Eastern Conference finals, this season was a success. According to Trae Young, who returned and had 14 points and nine assists on Saturday after missing Games 4 and 5 with a foot injury, Atlanta wants to keep this winning vibe going.
“I definitely feel like this is a start,” Young said. “I mean, this is the beginning. We’ve accomplished so much this year, but just the guys in the locker room, the young guys, we all understand that this is just the beginning. It’s fun. We had the city excited. We want to keep it this way.”
The Bucks move on to the NBA Finals against the Suns, and if they can get Antetokounmpo back, and he is fairly healthy, maybe they beat Phoenix. If they don’t get the two-time MVP back, winning an NBA title will be tough for Milwaukee.
Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker made the postseason for the first time in his career this season, and he has taken full advantage of it. Booker and the Suns are on their way to the NBA Finals after defeating the Clippers 130-103 in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.
Booker, who had 22 points and seven rebounds in the series-clinching victory over the Clippers, is averaging 27.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game in the playoffs.
The two-time All-Star has experienced a lot of losing in Phoenix. The Suns averaged 24 wins in Booker’s first five seasons in the NBA. Then, they hired Monty Williams as their head coach last season, and he created a winning culture. While the Suns missed the playoffs last season, they went 8-0 in the bubble. Ultimately, they acquired Chris Paul, and the rest is history.
Following their Game 6 victory, Booker reflected on his journey. He’s happy to be in the Finals, but he wants to win a title.
“Just a long time coming,” Booker said. “That’s what I said to Jay Gaspar, our equipment manager. “He’s the only one in the organization that’s been here longer than me. He’s going on year 30. So, he was here and Julie, so Julie has been here also. But it’s been a long time coming. We seen the bottom, the bottom of the bottom for multiple years, and just keeping our head down. Waiting on this moment right here. Monty(Williams) coming in, building the culture, him leading us with the preparation meets opportunity. That was these moments right here, and we took it, and we ran with it. But we still have work to do. This is nice and all, but we’re going for the Larry for sure.”
Williams added on Booker: “I’m happy for him because I’ve been with him every day now athletically for two years. So, I’ve seen the work. I’ve seen the passion; I’ve seen his family and how they, not just him, but they want it. They love Phoenix. They don’t want to go anywhere. They wanted to just kind of watching it like, wow, this is pretty cool.”
There are a lot of players that would have requested a trade if they were in Booker’s shoes. Credit to him for sticking it through, and now he is four games away from winning an NBA title:
Watch below as Booker talks getting to the NBA Finals, Chris Paul, and more:
Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul has made it to the NBA Finals! Paul scored 31 of his game-high 41 points in the second half, including 19 points in the fourth quarter, as the Suns defeated the Clippers 130-103 in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center on Wednesday night. With the win, Phoenix will make the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Paul’s 31 points in the second half is the most he’s scored in the second half in his career(regular season and playoffs).
In addition, the 36-year-old Paul, who scored 37 points in a series-clinching win against the Nuggets in the second round, became the oldest player in postseason history with 35 points in consecutive close-out games within a postseason, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The 16-year veteran struggled with his shot in the team’s Game 5 loss against the Clippers, but Suns head coach Monty Williams knew that Paul could have a breakout performance in this series, and it came at the right time.
“I’ve told you guys from the jump I wanted to stay out of his way,” Williams said postgame. “There were questions about his production before tonight, and in my heart, I felt like it was a matter of time. I didn’t know it was going to be like that, but that’s who Chris(Paul) is. He was tired, and he was still making those kinds of plays — getting to the basket, the threes, orchestrating everything.”
Paul, who spent six seasons with the Clippers, broke Los Angeles with his performance in the second half, and the Suns knew that when Patrick Beverley shoved Paul in the back after a Clippers’ timeout in the fourth quarter. Beverley would get ejected, and Phoenix continued to pour it on.
“Over the years, people talk junk to me, and a lot of times I usually say something back, but I done changed a little,” Paul said. “A little. A little. And I just kept thinking, if we do what we’re supposed to do, I get the last laugh. So you stay the course long enough, you break ’em, and that’s what we did.”
Jae Crowder, who scored 19 points in Game 6, added on Beverley’s shove: “They broke. We know we broke them. There’s no better sign of defeat than knowing that moment, that moment where it’s like competition meets and we just — you can’t do anything else to help your team overcome that situation. He just broke. That’s what we were trying to reach.”
Paul, who was traded to the Suns by the Thunder last offseason, getting to this point was not easy. He’s suffered untimely injuries in past years during the playoffs and had untimely injuries this postseason(shoulder, COVID), but according to Paul, he knew his chance to make it to the Finals would come.
When asked if he ever thought this moment would not happen, Paul said the following:
“No. No. I ain’t built like that. It’s just get to work,” he said. “Get to work. What was it, Game 3, I find out I tore some ligaments in my hand. I said, oh, here we go. But you just — I got an unbelievable team around me.”
Not many people had the Suns in the NBA Finals, but guess what? They’re here, and with home-court advantage in the Finals, injury issues with both the Hawks and Bucks, and based on the way they’re playing, Phoenix has an excellent chance to win a championship.
Watch below as Paul talks making NBA Finals: