The Suns, buoyed by a crazy loud home crowd, broke out of a 45-45 tie with a 20-7 run that soon ran up to a 33-17 run and a 16-point late-third lead on the visiting Bucks.
The big three of Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul and Devin Booker dominated the game for the Suns, each putting their stamp on the game at different times.
Suns win, 118-105, and (somehow) lead in an NBA Finals series for the first time in the franchise’s 54 year history. Neither of the prior two Finals appearances began well for the Valley.
Chris Paul had a game-high 32 points plus dished 8 assists, while Devin Booker had 27 points, 6 assists and 3 steals and young center Deandre Ayton finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds against the Bucks mammoth front line.
How it unfolded
Holy crap this place is loud! The counting of Giannis free throws was more deafening than I imagined.
The Suns came out FIRED UP, which led to spirited defense and attacking on offense but also a whole lot of jump shot misses. In the opening minutes, the Suns shot 5-7 inside the arc but missed all four open threes including a pair of corner threes by Chris Paul.
Suns down 12-10 at the 6:48 mark. All 10 of the Suns points were in the paint, as were the Bucks 10, the difference being a pair of free throws by Giannis (2 of 4 from the line).
Later in the quarter, the Suns got open for a pair of threes and Cameron Johnson and Cam Payne drained both, giving the Suns a 24-20 lead and a thunderous roar from the crowd. Devin Booker has been highly aggressive, having a hand in at least 16 of the Suns 24 points (8 points, 3 assists including both 3s).
Bad news: Dario Saric left the court limping badly. Might have twisted a knee or ankle.
Suns finished the first quarter up 30-26.
- Leaders: Devin Booker (12 points, 3 assists, 1 steal), Deandre Ayton (6 points, 4 rebounds), Giannis (8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists), Brook Lopez (7 points, 3 rebounds).
- Suns shooting 48%, Bucks 42%
Suns open second quarter with Chris Paul setting up the offense and if not for some more misses on open threes, the Suns would have built a good lead. But alas, the game stayed close as the Bucks went big again once Ayton took a breather and Dario could not return. Enter the Frank.
Chris Paul finally made some jumpers, and once Devin Booker came back in the Suns took a 45-38 lead on a Booker runner. Deandre Ayton (somehow quietly) is up to 10 points and 7 rebounds at this point, rim-running with the best of them and grabbing every rebound he can reach.
About this time we got word that Dario’s night is done (right knee), and at the same time —after the Bucks went big again — Frank Kaminsky fumbled a rebound, gave up a post shot, fumbled an entry pass and soon was checked back out for Ayton. Maybe Frank’s next stint will be better?
The Suns still maintained a lead thanks to their defense — some really great paint protection — and the shotmaking of Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
Suns led 57-49 at halftime. Chris Paul had 11 second-quarter points. Devin Booker leads the Suns with 16 points and 4 assists, while Deandre Ayton has 10 points and 8 rebounds at half.
Chris Paul started out the second half wanting to put the Bucks away, making a pair of shots over Brook Lopez, one inducing a four-point play, and the Suns soon had a 65-52 lead.
Since the 5:19 mark of the second quarter when the game was tied 45-45 to the 9:38 mark of the third, the Suns have outscored the Bucks 20-7.
Coming out of timeout, the Bucks had new energy with a strong cross-court pass and an offensive rebound by Lopez putting Ayton on his second foul. But they missed both free throws. A minute later, Bridges drained a three to give the Suns a 68-54 lead.
A few minutes later, Devin Booker forced another Bucks timeout a 78-62 with a jumper, after Chris Paul drained his own, after Deandre Ayton ran his totals up 16 and 14 just controlling the paint on both ends and...
The only thing keeping the game respectable at this point for the Bucks, if you count being within 20 points, is their three-point shooting (12-25, for 48%). They’re still down 17. Bad news for the Bucks, I think.
Suns are 19-19 on free throws at the end of three quarters, while the Bucks are only 2-6 at the line. Ayton has 18 and 16. Chris Paul leads all scorers with 27 points, while Booker and Khris Middleton both have 22.
Suns up 92-76 after three quarters.
In the fourth, the Bucks started out going smallish with Giannis at the five while Ayton was getting a rest. They pulled kept the game close, staying within 13-15 points for a couple of minutes.
Back in, Chris Paul.
The Bucks began attacking the paint while Ayton was resting and the Suns went small without Dario. Suns had Craig and Crowder as their big men at this point. Suns lead down to 11. Even with Cam Payne scoring seven points, the Bucks scored on a thousand straight possessions and soon the lead was cut to 9, 101-92, with 7:46 to go.
Bucks 3P shooting is still 48% at this point (14 for 29). Suns can’t give them both the paint AND the three point line.
Back in, Deandre Ayton.
Giannis had a putback to cut the lead to seven, but Booker made his first three of the game to make it 10 again. A Chris Paul steal, jumper and assist later and the Suns had it back to 12.
From there, the Suns kept the Bucks at bay and eventually closed out the game with both benches being cleared.
On to Game 2!