It’d be a bit of a tough start for Milwaukee. The Suns were able to deflect the energy from the Fiserv Forum crowd early on, flirting with double-digits early on. The Bucks would shoot absolutely horrendous from the floor, shooting just over 32 percent. However, they’d be lucky to remain in it. Going into the second, Phoenix clung to a slim 23-20 lead.
The Bucks would show more life to start the second, as they came back and eventually took the lead. However, some sloppiness remained, as well as a Devin Booker that couldn’t miss. Milwaukee would weather the storm enough where the Suns wouldn’t be able to take a lead. At halftime, both teams were as close as they could be at 52 apiece.
Both teams would remain razor thin with one another throughout the third quarter. Devin Booker would be the one standout player to start out the second half. He’d get to his mid-range spot and would seemingly never miss. It’d remain close until the final minute, which was when the Suns would close out on a high note. Entering the fourth, Phoenix held an 82-76 lead thanks to Devin Booker’s 18 point quarter.
Despite Devin Booker picking up his fifth personal foul, the Bucks weren’t able to take advantage as they would’ve liked. They would fail to get much of anything going with him on the bench. Late in the fourth, on what appeared to be his sixth personal foul, he got away with a tackling of Jrue Holiday on the layup (of what looked to be an intentional foul). However, the refs wouldn’t blow their whistle, and play would continue. He ended up hitting another shot, but so did Khris Middleton — a few shots actually — and none were bigger then the layin that would secure the win for Milwaukee and give them a 103-99 lead. They’d end up putting the final touches from the stripe on a 109-103 victory, which tied the series at two games apiece.
Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 40 points. He’d go 15-of-33 from the floor and knockd own 3-of-8 threes. Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in 26 points of his own paired with 14 rebounds.
Devin Booker unleashed a game-high 42 points on the evening. No other Sun would score more than 20 points.
What Did We Learn?
Once again, we saw Khris Middleton perform in the clutch. His shots down the stretch kept Milwaukee in the game, and his clutch layin following a Jrue Holiday steal provided the padding that the Bucks needed to seal this one off. Once again, when he was needed in the clutch, K-Midd came through for Milwaukee. The trust he has in his teammates is truly shining, and Middleton talked about how their opinions matter to him the most. Everybody on the Bucks, ranging from Bud to Holiday to Giannis, all talked about how they know the type of player Middleton is and what he embodies — and last night, he embodied the clutch gene yet again.
THAT. GIANNIS. BLOCK.
I am still in disbelief.
Okay, first, here, it is in real-time:
Now here it is in slow motion:
can't get over the fact Giannis just had one of the greatest blocks in NBA Finals history pic.twitter.com/50ded7o8a5— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) July 15, 2021
Now look at this:
Look where Giannis started on this....UNREAL pic.twitter.com/cl6rDhuCxT— Half Court Hoops (@HalfCourtHoops) July 15, 2021
I just don’t know what to say. I’m in disbelief. These are the types of plays that you will tell your grandchildren that you remember watching. I don’t know how else to put it. That was the play that geared the momentum that the Bucks needed to get over the hump, and it’s what propelled them to even this series up. It’s crazy that he’s doing all of this after his knee had bent eight inches backward in Atlanta — just unfathomable. Whenever one doubts Giannis, he does something that makes you wonder why you ever doubted him in the first place. Just unreal.
As for what Giannis had to say about the block?
Giannis on his block: "I thought I was gonna get dunked on, to be honest with you."— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) July 15, 2021
Okay, about that Devin Booker no call...
I’m typically not the type of person that will criticize refereeing, but that was a pretty egregious no call. It appeared as if Booker was intentionally trying to foul Holiday, but even despite that, no whistle was blown. That would have been Booker’s sixth personal foul, which would have removed him from the game. He’d score another basket on the ensuing possession. Ultimately, it ended up not mattering for the Bucks, but you can bet that they were still frustrated about the no call. It will be interesting to see if the NBA says anything about it moving forward.
Jrue Holiday will want to forget about this one.
It was definitely not the type of performance that Jrue Holiday was hoping for in this one. He wouldn’t be able to muster much of anything on the offensive end. His stat line would read 4-of-20 from the floor and 0-for-5 from deep on the evening. He would connect on all five of his free throw attempts, though. It’s typically positive news for the Bucks when he’s aggressive, but last night, he was unable to translate that into baskets. He’ll look for a rebound performance in Game 5. However, he did have a massive steal down the stretch, which resulted in a Khris Middleton and-1 that would ultimately seal the game.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Early in the game, Giannis had to take a break. The reason?
Giannis on why he left early in the game: "I wanted to take a tinkle."— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) July 15, 2021
- Now this is a statistic:
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are the 3rd pair of teammates (4th instance) over the last 50 years to each have a 40-point game in a single NBA Finals.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 15, 2021
The others are LeBron James/Kyrie Irving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Magic Johnson. pic.twitter.com/SJJZkV6WCj
It really epitomizes just how far Giannis and Khris have come. From dueling against one another in practice to this, it’s been quite the journey.
- PJ Tucker failed to make as many contributions as he’d like. In 29 minutes played, he just put up one field goal (a corner 3-pointer) and wouldn’t convert. He’ll look to have a more positive impact on things Saturday in Phoenix.
- Numerous times, the Bucks would get caught not shooting the ball and being too fancy. It came numerous times, whether it be down low when a layup should’ve been put up or at the top of the key when a shot should have been launched. It feels like a bit of overthink and it’ll be interesting to see if this carries over into Game 5.
- Chris Paul did not have a productive night at all, just finishing with 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting. I was taking a look at the Suns subreddit, and users were clamoring about how this was as if it was 2017 all over again — an incredible performance from Booker but no solid PG play.
- The Bucks did a magnificent job of forcing Suns turnovers. They’d commit 17 on the night and really make Phoenix uncomfortable. Protecting the basketball will definitely be a point of emphasis from Monty Williams going into Game 5.
- In addition to turnovers, you can expect Williams to harp his team regarding offensive rebounds as well. Milwaukee would corral 17 of them on the night, utilizing their strength on the glass. The Bucks did great in that facet of the game, and it helped them earn the W.