The first meeting between last year’s NBA Finals participants had a lot of hype to live up to. For the first 18 minutes or so of the game, it looked like the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks would oblige us.
Jrue Holiday got off to a hot start in the first quarter with 12 points including two three-pointers to complement Khris Middleton’s nine.
DeAndre Ayton had an answer of his own in the blistering opening period, though, as he also found himself in double digits with 10 points while making all four of his shots. Devin Booker chipped in seven of his own in an exciting start that ended 34-31 in the Bucks’ favor and already had 11 lead changes.
The game continued to be back and forth in the second quarter, with both teams taking it so seriously that they each used their coach’s challenges. In case you were interested, the Bucks won their challenge while the Suns lost theirs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a strong first half and threatened a triple-double with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists, but he was more intense than normal and earned himself a technical foul while on the bench in the second quarter. Booker also got himself a technical foul for Phoenix after picking up his third foul with 6:37 left in the second quarter, showing how chippy the game was. Chris Paul added to the grudge by breaking Jrue Holiday’s ankles.
The Suns got the better of Bucks toward the end of the first half, though, as they went on a 12-4 run to grab a 64-56 halftime lead.
That was the beginning of the end for the Bucks, as the Suns held onto control after that for the rest of the third quarter and pushed their lead to as high as 20 points. It didn’t help the Bucks that Pat Connaughton had to leave the game after jamming his finger on a night where he already shot a terrible one of seven from the field, but the Suns simply outplayed them.
The refs piled on the pain toward the end of the third quarter as well, as Giannis Antetokounmpo was given a flagrant one for an errant elbow to Ish Wainright while trying to get rebounding position. Things didn’t look great for the Bucks heading into the final stanza as they were behind 97-77 and the Suns were 33-0 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.
Ayton was unstoppable in the paint throughout the game, finishing with a game-high 27 points along with seven rebounds. Paul finished with another insane assist-to-turnover ratio as he had 17 points, 19 assists and one turnover.
The final score was 131-107, and that accurately reflected how great the Suns’ performance was. They certainly take their losses in stride, and this current run, with their four-straight wins, is the fifth time they’ve responded to a loss by winning at least three in a row.
Antetokoumpo finished with 18 points, seven rebound and eight assists in 30 minutes of play, while Holiday and Middleton chipped in 21 apiece for the shellshocked Bucks.