For the first time since 1974, the Milwaukee Bucks have won an NBA Finals game. They will look to continue the momentum and even up the series Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum.
The energy to start this one was off the charts — and who wasn’t expecting that? It was the first NBA Finals game in Milwaukee since 1974, and the crowd was absolutely hyped. However, it wouldn’t phase the Suns as much as Bucks fans would’ve liked to see. Instead, Phoenix rode Deandre Ayton and his 12 first quarter points and seized control with a 28-25 lead after one quarter of play. Ayton really took advantage of the small ball lineup that Budenholzer trotted out a majority of the period.
Milwaukee would really begin to gain momentum late in the third quarter, as they put together the pieces for a 20-6 run. The Bucks would continue to ride that momentum, continuing to sprinkle on the baskets. They’d really utilize strong ball movement, tallying 18 first half assists. Bobby Portis would make himself present and earn his first “BOB-BY!” chants of the evening. He’d be one of the ingredients that helped Milwaukee capture a 60-45 halftime advantage at the break. Here’s an incredible stat on the Bucks’ first half:
Giannis, Jrue, and Khris either scored or assisted on all 60 points for the Bucks in the first half.— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) July 12, 2021
Early on in the third quarter, Deandre Ayton would pick up his fourth personal foul, forcing him to exit the game. Despite the absence of their big man, Phoenix would refuse to roll over. Instead, they trimmed the lead to single digits, thanks in large part to the play of Cam Johnson off the bench. The shot-making in the period by the Suns was on fire. At one point, they’d connect on 12-of-14 field goal attempts. However, Milwaukee showed tremendous resilience, bouncing right back in a massive way. They’d close out the quarter on a massive run and hold a 98-76 lead going into the final quarter of play.
From that point on, the lead that the Bucks were able to build up was too much for the Suns to handle. The Bucks kept the pressure on and by continuing to score a few baskets in the fourth, they’d slam the door shut. When the dust had finally settled, Milwaukee had put the cherry on top of a 120-100 victory.
Giannis Antetokounmpo pieced together yet another masterful performance. He’d finish his evening with 41 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists. Jrue Holiday was also big, mixing in 22 points of his own.
Chris Paul notched a team-high 19 points for the Suns. Jae Crowder and Deandre Ayton would both finish with 18 points apiece.
What Did We Learn?
Yet again during this postseason run, the Bucks flashed their resiliency. Against the Nets, they fell down in the series in a 2-0 hole, then 3-2. They won that series. Against the Hawks, they’d lose Giannis and come back to finish the series and advance to the Finals. Now, last night, after facing another 2-0 deficit, they came out and earned a Game 3 victory. Could they be on a similar path like in the Brooklyn series? We’ll find out, but right now, one thing is certain. This Milwaukee team is resilient, and they’ve shown it multiple times. Just a massive trait that really defines this team.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is not human.
I’m still in disbelief, and for so many reasons. I still fall in the camp of those who cannot believe that Antetokounmpo is even out on the floor following his knee injury in Game 4 in Atlanta. The fact that he’s doing what he’s doing is just even more unfathomable. For the second consecutive Finals game, Giannis put up a stat line that included 40 points and 10 rebounds. The only other players to do that? Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James. That’s some pretty exclusive company to be in, and Antetokounmpo continues to be a force. There was one point late in the third quarter where he’d connect on an and-1, and you just knew that he was locked in and there was zero chance that the Bucks would lose this game:
Antetokounmpo would also earn 17 free throw attempts on the evening and connect on 13 of them. He continues to skyrocket his Bucks legacy with these performances when the spotlight is shining on him the most, and will seek to continue the momentum in Game 4 tomorrow evening.
The Bucks got Deandre Ayton in foul trouble, and it made a tremendous difference.
Deandre Ayton has been playing out of his mind this postseason. There’s no way around it. However, he can get himself into foul trouble from time to time, and the Bucks were no strangers to that fact. They knew that could be a way they could exploit the Suns, and last night, they did exactly that. Right off the bat, Phoenix’s big man looked like he’d be a menace once again, as his 12 first quarter points exhibited. Ayton would earn his third foul in the third quarter, forcing him to ride the bench. Granted, the Suns did make a run during that time, as they sliced Milwaukee’s 15-point halftime lead to just four points. However, he’d also continue to be out as the Bucks opened things back up and cruised to a 22-point lead going into the fourth. By getting Ayton into foul trouble, the Bucks were able to exploit the Suns’ thinness at that position and really take advantage.
When Milwaukee needed him, Jrue Holiday showed up.
We all know that when an aggressive Jrue Holiday is out on the floor, things typically bode well for the Bucks. That’d be the case again in Game 3. Holiday would put forth a 21 point performance. He was especially huge for the Bucks in the third quarter. He’d fall just one assist shy of a double-double, tallying nine on the evening. In his postgame availability, Bud would attribute his good looks as a big reason as to why Milwaukee was able to weather the storm of the Phoenix comeback in the third. He also provided color on how he helped the Bucks get in a good spot by settling in. Holiday will look to continue the momentum of his play Game 4 on Wednesday, when the Bucks will surely rely on his aggressive style of play once again.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Khris Middleton would get going at times, but not as much as he would’ve liked to. On the evening, he’d shoot 6-of-14 from the floor, three of which were threes (he’d go 3-of-7 from deep). The Bucks are obviously happy for the win, but it’ll be huge if Middleton is able to bounce back with a performance Bucks fans know he’s capable of having in Game 4 Wednesday evening. If he does, there’s a strong chance that this series becomes all tied up.
- The Bucks were facilitating the basketball last night. At the sound of the final horn, they’d tally up 28 on the evening. When they’re moving around the basketball like that in addition to hitting shots, it seems as if nobody can beat them. Here’s another wild stat:
Giannis, Jrue, and Khris have scored or assisted on 96 of Milwaukee's 98 points through 3 quarters.— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) July 12, 2021
- Another area that Milwaukee exposed Phoenix? Second-chance points. While the Bucks were cruising in that category, the Suns barely scratched the surface. Just a very strong facet of the game that really helped Milwaukee earn the W.
- There was one fast break where Jrue Holiday completed a behind-the-back pass and the Bucks scored on an incredible fastbreak which resulted in a Bobby Portis slam. Here’s that play:
- Yet again, the Bucks showed how lethal they can be when they make their shots. It doesn’t even have to be an insanely high amount of shots — just...a normal amount of shots. When they do that, they become nearly impossible to beat, and last night, that was another case where we saw that in this postseason. For Milwaukee, it’s just a matter of consistency at this point on whether or not they’re able to keep that momentum rolling.
- The atmosphere at Fiserv Forum was absolutely palpable. From before the tip-off to when the Bucks were making runs to when the final buzzer sounded, the energy was at an all-time high. Bucks fans have been waiting so long for a moment like this and its finally here.
- Outside of Fiserv? It was rocking as well. 25,000+ fans filled the Deer District:
- I mentioned how there were “BOB-BY!” chants, and for good reason:
The one and only, Bobby Portis:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 12, 2021
11 PTS | 8 REB pic.twitter.com/PrdgDilodZ
- Milwaukee defended the corner three at an astronomical rate last night:
After giving up 17 corner 3s attempts in Game 2, Bucks held Phoenix to 3 tonight.— Anchorage Man (@SethPartnow) July 12, 2021
- And last, I leave you with this. David Bakhtiari: All-Pro Offensive Lineman and All-Pro Beer Chugger: