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

by 24USATVJuly 18, 2021, 5 a.m. 18
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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.

Here are three keys to Milwaukee's win:

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.

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 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.

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