Phoenix won Game Two of the NBA Finals, 118-108, in front of a sold-out Valley crowd on Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in the series that heads out to the Midwest this weekend.
Milwaukee came out much more aggressive to open the game, scoring 12 of their first 14 points in the paint, led by their three stars. Giannis Antetokounmpo got two quick transition dunks, while Jrue Holiday attacked the basket in transition and Khris Middleton worked to get inside for easier looks rather than the pull-up jumpers he relied on in Game One.
The Bucks had 12 points in the paint of their first 14 scored.
On the Suns’ side, Holiday got the Chris Paul matchup to start, while P.J. Tucker guarded Devin Booker. They had Brook Lopez in a high drop, not so deep in the paint but instead around the free-throw line, with more aggressive help behind him. Giannis made a few big defensive plays early as well, notching a steal and a block.
However, the Suns were able to counter by finding shooters. Mikal Bridges made two quick ones, and Jae Crowder added another for the Suns’ first nine points of the night.
The downpour continued as 18 of Phoenix’s first 20 points came from deep, with Booker and Cameron Johnson eventually adding their own.
As the period continued, the three-point party did as well, but more importantly, Giannis looked a lot more like himself. Lopez left the floor with about 3:30 to go and Giannis moved to center, where he was a massive deterrent on Suns drives and also allowed Milwaukee to stay in attack mode on defense.
The Bucks led after one, 29-26.
Milwaukee really challenged the Suns to open the second, playing passing lanes, swarming the ball, and bogging the Suns’ offense down. Booker in particular was affected, as he started the game 2-10 from the field.
But while that was going on, the Bucks’ offense sputtered. They started the second period with an all-offense lineup with Giannis, Holiday, Bryn Forbes, Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis, then quickly inserted Tucker. After a quiet Game One, Holiday looked for his shot more often, but not necessarily in a good way, missing his first three shots of the period.
Overall, Milwaukee shot 6-25 from the field in the second period, and their overall efficiency fell to 36.5 percent. Aside from Tucker’s offensive rebounding and Giannis’ energy, nothing worked.
The Suns stayed diligent about ball and player movement, with Bridges the beneficiary, as he added another seven points to his six in the first quarter. He went into the locker room as the Suns’ leading scorer.
The second half opened with a heavy dose of Giannis, who scored 13 of the first 16 points for the Bucks. He was a beast going to the rim against Ayton and then started to hunt out Bridges in isolation, and he was able to bully Bridges around a bit.
Giannis also drew a ton of fouls, getting his team into the bonus with 5:33 remaining in the period and taking 14 free throws in the third alone.
Milwaukee cut the lead to single digits multiple times, but both Paul and Booker seemingly had an answer every time. With the lead at seven and about 4:30 to go, Middleton for some reason took a quick pull-up three (maybe feeling unengaged in the offense?) and the Suns turned it around and got an open corner three from Booker in response.
That pushed Phoenix’s lead back to 10.
After missing his spot in the rotation in the first half, Frank Kaminsky came in with 1:12 to go in the third quarter to spell Ayton, alongside Craig and Johnson.
A moment later, Craig was rolled over by Giannis and had to be helped up. He went to the locker room. The Suns would later announce Craig would not return with a right knee contusion.
But overall, the third quarter was controlled by Giannis, who scored 20. Without him, the Bucks would have been down for the count by 8 p.m. local time.
There was a steady back-and-forth for most of the fourth until Giannis checked out with about eight minutes left on the clock, and Booker seemed to feel that a big play was needed and cashed in with a big pull-up three to bring the lead back to 10.
It was his sixth of the game and gave him 28 on the night. Huge.
After that, it was time for another Booker three, this time off a Spain pick-and-roll, giving him 31 on the night and bringing him to 50 percent shooting after starting the game 2-10.
Giannis got right back to it when he checked in, though, cutting the lead to six and forcing Monty Williams to call a timeout.
At the reset, Crowder had four fouls and Ayton had three, while Holiday had four. The Bucks had a four-point advantage in the fourth quarter with 4:32 to go, but were down, 103-97.
Paul hit a three off an Ayton offensive rebound after the stoppage. Then Middleton missed a transition layup. The lead went back to double digits on a Bridges driving layup.
From there, the Suns went into prevent mode, doing their best to attack Connaughton, move the ball, and keep Milwaukee at bay. They did it, and won, 118-108.