The Milwaukee Bucks are one win away from winning the NBA Finals after defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game Five, 123-119 inside the Footprint Center.
I had the privilege of attending this game and never in my life would I ever expect to be at an NBA Finals game featuring the Bucks. It was a surreal experience that had me questioning my near $1,000 ticket purchase at the end of the first...but again, I was proven wrong by the most resilient Milwaukee team in franchise history.
What We Learned
The Milwaukee Bucks FINALLY got a performance where their big three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday were clicking on all cylinders. While it took a few quarters for Giannis, who was clearly gassed, to get in a rhythm, they were impossible to defend. Jrue and Khris did much of the heavy lifting offensively in the second and third quarters and the Greek Freak saved his best for the final frame in which he made 5-of-9 field goals.
In all, the trio combined to score 88 of the 123 points. Not bad! While we had to wait a while to see all three guys play at an elite level simultaneously...I’d say it was worth the wait!
Jrue Holiday picked an amazing time to play the best game of his life. It didn’t get off to the best start, though, even though he made his first FGA of the contest. He picked up two quick fouls in the opening quarter by trying to do too much defensively and doing a lot of hand fighting. That’s where Jeff Teague entered and things went south in a hurry as the home team built a 16-point advantage. Now, it is totally not all on Teague, but it’s hard to envision Phoenix building that big of a lead with Holiday on the floor. After a disastrous opening quarter, the UCLA guard went to work and made 9-of-11 shots combined in the second and third quarters. He was relentlessly attacking the Suns’ interior defense and was able to finish some shots around the rim while also converting on a few in-between shots off the glass. To put the cherry on top, he made 3-of-6 shots from deep. In addition to his hot shooting, it was a joy to watch live how effortlessly he was getting his teammates involved. There was one pass in particular that stuck out in the first half where he navigated the baseline and delivered a pinpoint left-handed dime to an open three-point shooter in the corner. In all, it was a 27 point, four rebound, 13 assist, and three steal performance in 42 minutes.
Jrue closed it out with THE STEAL:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 18, 2021
27 PTS | 13 AST | 4 REB | 3 STL pic.twitter.com/PO38LEB5rB
Khris Middleton shouldered the load offensively when it looked like the Suns were going to make their run. Like every Bucks player who saw the court in the first quarter...he got off to an ugly start, shooting just 1-of-7. He was able to get it going a bit before halftime as the Bucks stormed their way back from a huge deficit to take the lead going into intermission. Every shot he hit in the third quarter was in rhythm, but also heavily contested...his shot-making in that quarter was spectacular and ended up playing an integral role in helping Milwaukee maintain a double-digit advantage. I loved how quickly they pushed the tempo offensively in the third which allowed Middleton to get to his spots with relative ease. He took a bit of a step back in the final frame while Giannis was doing his thing, but in my opinion, he hit the BIGGEST shot of the night. With 2:20 left in the game and Milwaukee leading by five, Khris had the ball in his hands with the shot clock winding down and Mikal Bridges draped all over him. No problem, though, as he was able to create space on a step-back three which put them up 120-112. He tallied 44 minutes and dropped 29 points, seven rebounds, and five assists while shooting 12-of-23 from the floor.
"MORE MIDDLETON MAGIC!"— NBA (@NBA) July 18, 2021
Khris Middleton has 28 in the game and is 3-4 in the 4Q.. @Bucks up 6 with 1:45 left.#NBAFinals presented by YouTube TV pic.twitter.com/kYt9yNEkMj
Giannis Antetokounmpo is leaving it all out there on the floor. Every second of rest he can get, MKE is going to try and take advantage of it...whether it be a quick blow before a TV timeout, or taking him out with one minute left in a quarter. Interestingly enough, I thought they played a bit better with him off the floor in the first half. He was able to get some easy buckets in the opening period but didn’t really do much else after that (first half wise). They made their run in the second with Giannis tallying only one made field goal that frame...crazy. You just knew it was only a matter of time before he got in the flow and put his foot on the gas pedal, which is exactly what he did in the last two quarters on Game Five. It started with him getting his teammates involved, finding the open shooters in the corner, or making precise passes to a teammate streaking to the basket while he had the ball at the top of the key. His patience as a distributor elevates this Milwaukee team to new heights. Remember when he couldn’t make a pass out of a double team? Me neither. Spanning the last two quarters, Antetokounmpo converted on 9-of-15 shots from the field. None of these baskets were easy, too. He made a few jumpers over Deandre Ayton and a running floater from just inside the free-throw line coming out of a timeout late in the fourth. This was a completely turnover-free game from him too, which makes this performance that much sweeter. Nothing like pouring in 32 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in the fifth Finals game of your career and putting the exclamation point on a huge comeback like THIS.
AS CALLED ON BUCKS RADIO: pic.twitter.com/Z8CWBLevw6— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) July 18, 2021
- Where would this team be without Pat Connaughton? With Bryn Forbes being virtually unplayable he has stepped up in a big way on both ends of the floor. He added 14 points and all of his makes came from deep in 33 minutes of action. Of course, that is a massive contribution from him offensively, but I have been more impressed with his defense on Devin Booker and how he has crashed the offensive glass. Book is one of, if not the best tough shot makers in the league, and Pat has been draped all over him the entire series making him work for EVERYTHING. For the third game in a row, he added a clutch OREB off a miss that allowed the Bucks to drain some more time off the clock.
- P.J. Tucker committed five fouls in 24 minutes of play and the majority of those calls against him were very wishy-washy.
- Brook Lopez played well in 29 minutes, adding nine points on 4-of-6 shooting. He spent much of the second half on the bench as they went small to close out this game.
- BOBBY PORTIS! sure pissed off both the Suns’ players and their fans with his IDGAF knack for always finding where the basketball is. He makes winning plays.
- The Suns ended with 55.2/68.4/90.9 shooting splits and lost.
- The Bucks ended up making 14 threes and 57.5% of their shots after an ugly start. Seems good.