The Milwaukee Bucks saved themselves from an almost certain sweep last night. They picked up their first win in the NBA Finals series against the Phoenix Suns, showing that there is some life in the team. While they still have a long way to go, down 2-1, there’s a glimmer of hope that the Bucks will take another win and make this an interesting series that goes the distance.
Bucks Bank on Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo was in rare form yesterday for Game 3. Rare, only because he hasn’t been playing that great, but he finally found his rhythm. He ended the night with 41 points, adding 13 rebounds and six assists in the Bucks’ 120-100 win. This was the first time Milwaukee has won a Finals game since 1974, three years after their first and only championship win. This was the 11th game for the Greek Freak with at least 30 points and ten rebound, passing the team record set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1974. Now, with two consecutive 40-point NBA Finals games, Antetokounmpo is approaching the record set by Michael Jordan. He’s halfway there and, ironically, could break the record that Jordan set against the Suns.
Jrue Holiday had a better night, helping the Bucks rally with 21 points. Khris Middleton added another 18 in what was an effort by a team that didn’t look anything like the one that played in the first two games. The first quarter had the Suns starting to take control, but a 30-9 run by the Bucks in the second quarter turned things around. When Milwaukee went on a 16-0 run in the third, it was evident that the team had figured out what it had done wrong in the first two games.
Finding the Edge
One of the keys to Milwaukee’s win was finally figuring out how to stop Chris Paul. He was held to 19 points, which, for any other player, would be a success. However, Paul has been unstoppable this series, until now. He didn’t get any help from Devin Booker, who only put up ten points on the night. Late efforts by the Suns in the fourth quarter were haphazard, with miscues and misreads haunting most of their attempts.
The Suns had a chance at one point, cutting their deficit to just four points in the third quarter. However, Holiday came in with back-to-back treys to open the lead and, by the end of the period, the Bucks were back up safely, 98-76. From there, the Suns couldn’t develop any sort of attacking offense and suffered through the last period. By the end of the game, Phoenix, which had netted 20 three-point shots in Game 2, was only able to muster nine due to a tighter Milwaukee defense.
Next Up, Milwaukee Calling
The fourth game will be played this Wednesday, with the Bucks hosting once again. This will give the team some added motivation, ready to impress their hometown fans once more. If Antetokounmpo can keep running like he did in Game 3, the Bucks have another shot. Antetokounmpo’s 40-point double-double in two consecutive games was a definite reason for the win and he’s only the third player to ever achieve the feat in the NBA Finals. Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2000 and LeBron James did it in 2016.
It’s too early to get excited, though. With two days off, the Suns have time to come up with a new strategy before hitting the court again. When they do, fans and sports gamblers can be assured they will be a different, more aggressive team.