PHOENIX, AZ — Thanks to a combined 88 points from Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks rallied from an early 16-point deficit to become one win away from the franchise’s second NBA title, in a Game 5 123-119 NBA Finals road win over the Phoenix Suns.
Middleton (29 points), Holiday (27 points) and Antetokounmpo (32 points) became the fifth trio in NBA Finals history to each record 25 points on 50% shooting in a game, and are the first to do it since James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson in 1985, per ESPN Stats and Info.
However, it wouldn’t have been until Holiday’s steal of Suns guard Devin Booker and game-clinching alley-oop pass to Antetokounmpo with 13.9 seconds remaining to give the Bucks at 122-119 lead and a free throw from Middleton did the visitors from the Dairy State begin to exhale and celebrate a hard-fought win.
The East champions also got some much-needed support from the bench, thanks to backup center Booby Portis and Pat Connaughton chipping in nine and 14 points.
For the Suns, the forementioned Booker led all scorers with a game-high 40 points, followed by 21 from Chris Paul and 20 from DeAndre Ayton. After looking seemingly unstoppable and too fast for the Bucks, the Suns suddenly look like the young and inexperienced team that amny experts pegged as a possible weakness coming into the postseason. Down 3-2 and facing elimination for the first time, Phoenix must now travel back to the Upper Midwest and hope to force a Game 7 in The Valley.
One issue that the Suns seem to have issue with is the Bucks large lineup of Brook Lopez (7′), Middleton (6’7) and Antetokounmpo (6’11) giving them problems in the paint and down in the post, leaving them exposed to offensive rebounds, second-chance points and fouls.
Milwaukee out-rebounded the smaller Suns, 37-35 (11-8 on offensive rebounds) Saturday night, and in their three-game winning streak that has tilted in the Bucks’ favor, has out-bodied Phoenix, 132-111, and by a 2:1 margin in offensive rebounds, 41-19.
Clearly, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has found something and made the proper adjustment. Now, it’s up to Suns’ head coach, Monty Williams to make his own, or risk seeing the Bucks celebrate their championship right in front of them.