The Jerusalem Post
Bucks rally past Suns in Game 4 thriller
Middleton (40 points) goes toe-to-toe with Booker (42 points) as Milwaukee evens Finals at 2 apiece
Antetokounmpo didn’t dominate. Jrue Holiday had another rough offensive night, expending effort to guard Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ bench was OK, not great.
But the Bucks leaned on Khris Middleton and overcame 40% shooting from the field and a spectacular offensive performance from Booker to beat the Phoenix Suns 109-103 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday in the best game of the series.
Trailing for much of the second half, the Bucks pulled ahead late in the fourth quarter with eight straight points from Middleton and great defense, including two Antetokounmpo blocks – one on Chris Paul and one on Deandre Ayton.
Middleton led the Bucks with 40 points, and Antetokounmpo had 26 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and two blocks.
“He was special,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Middleton. “A lot of good stuff from Khris. And defensively, too, I think he’s given us a lot on that end.”
The series is tied 2-2, and Game 5 is Saturday night in Phoenix.
Here are four key takeaways from
Milwaukee’s Game 4 conquest:
Middleton yes on offense, Holiday yes on defense
Middleton was aggressive from the start. He took 15 shots in the first half and ended with a playoff career-high 33 attempts. He scored 24 points in the second half and gave the Bucks a chance to win.
His backcourt partner Holiday had another rough shooting night in the Finals. Holiday was 4-for-20 and didn’t have a deft touch on his shots at the rim.
The Bucks had chances. Pat Connaughton missed a three-pointer that would’ve tied the score with 7:15 remaining in the fourth quarter, and Holiday missed a three with 4:05 to play that would’ve tied the score at 95-95.
Another missed Holiday shot would’ve put Milwaukee ahead 99-97.
However, Holiday, who had 13 points and seven assists, worked on the defensive end, with three steals and four defensive rebounds.
“I know my game is more than just scoring,” Holiday said. “It’s part of the reason that they brought me here. I can get into the paint and facilitate, make plays that way, and then I can make plays on the defensive end. So I just feel like my game is not just one-sided, but I’ve always stayed locked in. Even if my shot’s not falling, I always try to be aggressive offensively. But in particular defensively where we know that Chris Paul can go off at any time.”
Booker was balling
Booker had just 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting in Milwaukee’s Game 3 victory. He’s known for bounce-back games, and he had one in Game 4.
He had 12 points in the second quarter and 18 points in the third. But he picked up his fourth foul in the third and his fifth foul with 10:50 left in the game. He had 38 points when he left the game. Booker returned with 5:55 left, and the Suns up 93-90.
“He could have gone for 50-plus tonight,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I wanted to get him in maybe a minute earlier than I did, you’re just holding on trying to get as many stops and solid possessions as you can, but it’s not an ideal situation. But I thought we managed it well tonight. We were able to get him back in when the game was still tight.”
Booker, who finished with 42 points, destroyed Milwaukee with his midrange game around the foul line.
“He was locked in,” Williams said. “We talk about that a ton. He had a really good workout yesterday, a somewhat
of a decent workout and then this morning he looked really good in our warmups, shootarounds, but his focus to play in all three levels tonight on offense was really good for us. That’s just his mindset. We knew he was going to bounce back from the other night. He was drawing fouls himself and that helps us when he gets to the line.
Limiting Giannis – to a degree Ayton stayed out of foul trouble and that helped the Suns protect the paint much better than they did in Game 3 when the Bucks had a 54-40 advantage, including 28 points in the paint from Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks star finished with 20 points in the paint Wednesday.
“I’ve got to be more aggressive,” he said. “I have to keep going downhill more. Keep enjoying the game more. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”
Ayton had six points, 17 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
Paul scored just 10 points and finished with five turnovers, giving him 17 in four Finals games. The Bucks scored 24 points on 17 Suns turnovers and outscored the Suns 15-0 in fast-break points. Phoenix coach Monty Williams has been concerned with transition defense all series, and it doesn’t help when the Suns are giving away live-ball turnovers.
“It was bad decision-making,” Paul said. “That time we were down two [101-99 Bucks with 32 seconds to go] and I tried to cross over right there, slipped, turned it over. I had some bad passes in the first half. They got a significant amount more shots than us, so for me I got to take care of the ball. We got 17 turnovers. We shoot the ball too well (51.3%) not to have those opportunities to score.”