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Suns Bucks hold off late in thrilling Game 5 to move one win from

Suns Bucks hold off  late in thrilling Game 5 to move one win from

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Suns Bucks hold off late in thrilling Game 5 to move one win from

Chris Paul's brain was faster than his body in Suns' 123-119 loss to … Sat, 17 Jul 2021 18:00:00 -0700-That's how close the Milwaukee Bucks are to their first NBA championship since 1971 and the first title for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee …

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Bucks hold off Suns late in thrilling Game 5 to move one win from NBA championship

July 17, 2021

PHOENIX — Just one more victory

That’s how close the Milwaukee Bucks are to their first NBA championship since 1971 and the first title for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee overcame a 16-point first-quarter deficit and clobbered the Phoenix Suns with an offensive firestorm in the final three quarters for a 123-119 victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

It was another heart-thumping finish. Down 11 midway through the fourth quarter, Phoenix made it a one-point game in the final minute.

Jrue Holiday’s steal on Devin Booker led to an alley-oop to Antetokounmpo for a 122-119 Milwaukee lead, and Khris Middleton’s free throw with 9.8 seconds left following an offensive rebound made it 123-119.

The game featured tremendous shotmaking, especially from Holiday, Middleton and Booker. Holiday’s scorching offense and hounding defense led the Bucks to a 3-2 series lead. He had 27 points, 13 assists, three steals and a block.

It was the first time a road team has a won a game in this series.

The Bucks have been on the right street in recent seasons, losing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2019 and second round last season. They are not only knocking on the championship door this season, they have opened it and are trying to walk in.

Milwaukee can win the title in Game 6 on Tuesday in Milwaukee (9 p.m. ET, ABC), and it has put itself in great position. Teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 Finals go on to win the series 72.4% of the time (21-8).

The Suns were the best road team in the NBA during the regular season and will need one if they want to force Game 7.

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Here are three keys to Milwaukee's win:

Holiday delivers

Holiday’s importance to Milwaukee’s success in Game 5 can’t be overstated. He has struggled offensively in the series, but he has a tough assignment on the efensive end, guarding Phoenix’s top scorers, including Booker and Chris Paul.

The Bucks traded for Holiday before the season for that reason, and in a game where they needed his offense, he produced. He was 12-for-20 from the field, including 3-for-6 on 3-pointers.

Bucks' soaring shooting

Milwaukee scored 102 points in in the final three quarters on 41-for-66 shooting. The Bucks not only avoided a blowout, they led for the entire second half and had a 108-94 lead with 9:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Antetokounmpo, who is favorite to win Finals MVP, had 32 points on 14-for-23 shooting with nine rebounds and six assists. Khris Middleton followed up his 40-point effort in Game 4 with 29 points on 12-for-23 shooting. He also contributed seven rebounds and five assists.

Pat Connaughton had 14 points off the bench, making 4-of-6 3-pointers.

Booker carries Suns’ offensive load again

Booker finished with 40 points, his second consecutive game with 40 points and third 30-point game of the Finals. He had some help with all five Suns starters reaching double figures in points: Deandre Ayton (20 points, 10 rebounds), Paul (21 points, 11 assists), Mikal Bridges (13 points) and Jae Crowder (10 points).

That wasn’t enough even though Phoenix shot 55.2% from the field and 68.4% on 3-pointers.

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

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Bucks hold off Suns late in thrilling Game 5 to move one win from … Sat, 17 Jul 2021 18:00:00 -0700-Chris Paul hasn't been himself, and it shows in three-game finals losing streak.

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Chris Paul’s brain was faster than his body in Suns’ 123-119 loss to Bucks in Game 5

July 17, 2021

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Chris Paul’s brain was faster than his body Saturday night.

It happens to every athlete, eventually. Play long enough and you’ll see opportunities you can’t execute.

For Paul, the realization had been clear long before he checked in to start the fourth quarter of the Suns 123-119 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, but he went out there anyway.

He’s never been an NBA champion, but he was showing championship heart. If the Bucks were going to beat him, they were going to have to knock him out.

With about 10 minutes left and the Suns trailing by 10 points, Paul found himself with the ball near the free-throw line, his back was to the basket, but he could see in his peripheral vision Cam Johnson open in the corner. Paul whipped a crosscourt pass that should have given Johnson an open shot.

The pass was high and wide. Johnson could only try to save it from going out of bounds. Bobby Portis ended up with the steal. Milwaukee ended up with the game.

It looks like they’re going to take the series.

Teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 NBA Finals go on to win the series 72% of the time (21-8), according to USA TODAY NBA writer Jeff Zillgitt.

To win the first NBA championship in Suns’ franchise history, Phoenix will need to find hope in the reality that eight teams didn’t care that they had to win two in a row to take the title, they did it anyway.

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Besides, their defense failed them far more than their point guard.

The Suns gave up 43 points in the second quarter. That pace sustained for an entire game would have been good for 172 points.

Phoenix gave up 36 points in the third quarter. That was 79 points in two quarters, a 158-point pace.

It looked hopeless going into the fourth.

The Suns were down 10, and the Bucks were scoring from anywhere they wanted.

Paul — one of the greatest players to ever to lace up a pair of gym shoes, the final piece of the Suns’ Western Conference championship puzzle, the flint that helped spark the dormant fire in one of the nation’s best basketball cities — wasn’t going out like that.

His buddies from Los Angeles, LeBron James and Lil Wayne, were sitting courtside.

The entire basketball world was watching.

Could he find just enough more magic to make the impossible possible?

Everything on him was aching, it seemed.

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With about 5 minutes left, Paul got Giannis Antetokounmpo on a switch and started the ballhandling wizardry that has defined the modern era of NBA basketball.

Antetokounmpo, one of the game’s best defenders, didn’t stand a chance.

Paul moved the 7-footer all around the floor then put up a little fadeaway that Antetokounmpo couldn’t touch.

It pulled the score to 113-107.

A few minutes later, Paul flashed past Pat Connaughton along the baseline for a layup to pull the Suns to within one point, 120-119.

But in the end, he didn’t have enough juice to squeeze Phoenix past Milwaukee.

He finished with 21 points, 11 assists and just one turnover, but he just didn’t look like himself out there. He wasn’t able to simply take over the game in key moments.

This isn’t over.

If anyone is capable of turning things around it’s Chris Paul.

“Everything we want is on the other side of hard,” Paul said, quoting his coach, Monty Williams. “It doesn’t get any harder than this.”

He knows what to do.

But an improbable comeback is going to be that much more unlikely with Chris Paul’s brain moving faster than his body.

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.

There's plenty Moore where this came from. Subscribe for videos, columns, opinions and analysis from The Arizona Republic’s award-winning sports team. 


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– July 18, 2021
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