— The Phoenix Suns have never been closer to an NBA title.
scored 31 points, Chris Paul had 23 and the Suns beat the Milwaukee
Bucks 118-108 on Thursday night to take a 2-0 series lead.
surged ahead late in the first half, withstood Giannis
Antetokounmpo’s all-around effort to bring the Bucks back, and
walked off winners again as fans swung orange rally towels all
had 42 points and 12 rebounds in his second game back after missing
two games because of a hyperextended left knee.
never even had a lead in the NBA Finals until their 118-105 victory
in Game 1. They dropped the first two games in both 1976 and 1993,
their only other appearances, and didn’t win more than two games in
already got two this time and will go after a third Sunday in
Milwaukee, which will host the NBA Finals for the first time since
“We know it
gets rowdy in Milwaukee, but I think we’re ready for it,” Booker
seven three-pointers and the Suns went 20-for-40 behind the arc.
Mikal Bridges scored 27 points, and Paul finished with eight
played more aggressively but didn’t shoot a whole lot better than
in Game 1, scoring 17 points but hitting only 7-for-21. Khris
Middleton was 5-for-16, forcing Antetokounmpo to carry an even
heavier load on his sore left leg.
It adds up to
the Bucks having to overcome a 2-0 deficit for the second time this
postseason. They did it against the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern
Conference semifinals, but had some help when first James Harden
and then Kyrie Irving were injured.
Now they are
facing a Suns team loaded with weapons all over the lineup, and
showed off all of them in the prettiest play of this series.
the ball all around the
perimeter for the final basket of the first half. It went
from Paul to Booker to Jae Crowder to Bridges, back to Crowder to
Paul, then over to Crowder and once again Bridge. He then finally
fed it inside to Deandre Ayton, who scored while being fouled with
14.9 seconds left for a 56-45 lead at the break.
could only dream of having that many guys involved. Antetokounmpo’s
15 field goals were more than twice as many as any other Milwaukee
opened a 65-50 lead with a good start to the third, but
Antetokounmpo — and pretty much only Antetokounmpo — kept the game
from getting away from the Bucks. He scored 20 of the Bucks’ 33
points in the third, the first 20-point period in the finals since
Michael Jordan against the Suns in 1993.
it all the way down to six in the fourth, but Paul nailed a
three-pointer and Bridges had a basket to quickly push the lead
back to double digits.
outscored Phoenix 20-0 in the paint in the first quarter, but eight
of the Suns’ nine baskets were 3-pointers and they were behind just
fouls — both on the Suns — were called in a clean quarter.
Antetokounmpo took the only two free throws, making one
and shooting an airball
on the second as fans continued counting, as they have in Bucks’
road games during the playoffs to show that he often doesn’t appear
to shoot them within the allotted 10 seconds.
It was tied
at 41 with just under five minutes left in the half before the Suns
surged ahead with precision offense and some shutdown defense. They
finished with a 15-4 run, the Bucks managing just a pair of baskets
He tried to
fire up his teammates with some screaming on the bench during a
timeout, but he couldn’t put the ball into the basket for them. The
Bucks were a dismal 6-for-25 in the period, missing 10 of their 12
Middleton finished with 11 points. ... Holiday was 4-for-14 in Game
1. ... Antetokounmpo had his 13th game with at least 20 points and
10 rebounds in this postseason. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had
15 in 1974 and 14 in 1971, had more for the Bucks.
has 490 points, second-most for any player in his first postseason.
Rick Barry scored 521 in 1967. .. The Suns are 14-4 in this
had some fun with a video on social
media calling to mind the important shared history between
the teams who came into the NBA together in 1968. The Bucks won a
coin toss in 1969 that allowed them to select the future Hall of
Famer with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
In the video,
Abdul-Jabbar, wearing a Milwaukee No. 33 T-shirt, flips a coin.
“Bucks in 6,”
he then said. “Fear the Deer.”
11 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 4-for-8. He missed all eight
attempts in Game 1.