The Suns took down the Bucks on national TV, 125-124, for their signature win.
The beginning of the game was about deciphering matchups. The Suns started Frank Kaminsky again, which meant that Deandre Ayton began the game on Giannis Antetokounmpo. On the other end, rather than letting Donte DiVincenzo try his hand on Devin Booker, the Bucks went with Khris Middleton, and then hid Bryn Forbes on Mikal Bridges.
The Suns also did a good job early in the game of getting Booker loose off ball and designing sets around Chris Paul finding him early in the clock. The main beneficiary of Booker’s gravity and Paul’s play-making in those spots was actually Ayton, however, as the big man started the game with six points.
This early-clock Pistol action is a perfect example:
First-class airfare for DA. pic.twitter.com/6bhPYwrOyP— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) February 11, 2021
Both offenses started out pretty darn crisp, with the Suns opening the game 13-19 from the field with 10 assists to just one turnover. However, Milwaukee led by one after a timeout at the 1:56 mark in the first because the Bucks were 6-12 from deep and had grabbed three offensive rebounds. Predictably, Antetokounmpo also got just about whatever he wanted in transition as a scorer.
At the end of one, the score was tied at 32, and Giannis and Ayton both had 10.
In the second quarter, the Suns simplified things a good deal and still managed to get some great offense out of it. For the most part, they operated out of Paul-Ayton pick and rolls or through Ayton as a dribble handoff initiator.
If the Suns manage to get Booker or Ayton an open catch-and-shoot three in the corner, that possession is a huge victory for them. That happened, with a dish from Langston Galloway and a Paul triple, early in the first.
Shortly after, the Bucks began to heat up from deep, with Forbes in particular getting easy looks time and again. The Suns made their own run to cut the Bucks’ lead to seven on an Ayton three, but Milwaukee got hot again at that point.
They went 13-24 from deep in the first half.
Booker did all he could to score in isolation to keep the Suns in the game, including drawing a foul on Middleton with four seconds left, but Milwaukee went to the locker room at halftime up, 69-59.
To open the second half, Giannis continued to get to the basket, drawing two fouls on Kaminsky early. But the Bucks’ offense overall quieted down, mostly because the three-point luck began to even out.
The Suns took advantage, and after both Bridges and Paul nailed open looks from deep, the Suns cut the lead to four and the Bucks took a timeout.
The Milwaukee lead stayed between five and 10 for most of the third quarter, with most of the damage being done by Bridges, Booker and Giannis. In particular, Giannis was relentless getting to the free-throw line, attempting 12 free throws in the third alone.
Despite all of that, the Suns stayed the course, and scored enough to keep up, which meant in addition to the Bucks’ cold shooting, the Suns were able to make a late run once Giannis went out that brought them within three, 101-98.
The Suns made three straight triples to open the fourth and take a 107-101 lead, as the Bucks left many Suns players open and they made Milwaukee pay. The same rhythms of the rest of the game continued into the fourth, as Giannis aggressively drove inside and either got a layup or a foul, while the Suns continued to execute their offense, move the ball, and make shots.
However, Ayton had to check out with 8:48 left in the fourth after he picked up his fifth foul, and Kaminsky predictably struggled. The Suns tried Crowder on Giannis as well (because Brook Lopez was out there), and it didn’t go much better. The game was a shootout, and those typically favor the better offense, which has been Milwaukee most of the year.
With Ayton out about halfway through the fourth, Booker drew a foul on Middleton and the Suns got a Crowder three off the inbound, then Paul drew a charge on Forbes. To complete the sequence, Paul made a mid-range jumper over Lopez to put the Suns up six.
The Suns called a timeout with 4:30 to go and the lead, 118-114.
Ayton checked in a moment later with five fouls, but the Suns stayed diligent and didn’t put him in a bad situation to get called for a foul. Booker then asked for a switch to get Middleton on him and nailed a mid-range jumper, then did so again and got a three to go down.
But before long, the Bucks cut a five-point lead to a tie. Booker got to his usual favorite spot at the elbow for a jumper but missed, then Ayton turned it over trying to dish it back out. Middleton hit a transition three on the other end. The next time down, Giannis slammed it home to tie the game at 124.
Fortunately, Booker got another chance in isolation on Middleton and drew a foul, then made one of his two free throws to go up one.
With about 32 seconds to go, the Bucks called a timeout. Then, Giannis turned the ball over, on a post up against Crowder. On the other end, Booker missed another pull-up jumper, Lopez grabbed a loose ball rebound and barreled into Crowder, then Giannis was forced into a jumper to tie it.