• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Bucks hold off Suns late in thrilling Game 5 to move one win from NBA championship

·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

PHOENIX — Just one more victory.

That’s how close the Milwaukee Bucks are to their first NBA championship since 1971 and the first title for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee overcame a 16-point first-quarter deficit and clobbered the Phoenix Suns with an offensive firestorm in the final three quarters for a 123-119 victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

It was another heart-thumping finish. Down 11 midway through the fourth quarter, Phoenix made it a one-point game in the final minute.

Jrue Holiday’s steal on Devin Booker led to an alley-oop to Antetokounmpo for a 122-119 Milwaukee lead, and Khris Middleton’s free throw with 9.8 seconds left following an offensive rebound made it 123-119.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

The game featured tremendous shotmaking, especially from Holiday, Middleton and Booker. Holiday’s scorching offense and hounding defense led the Bucks to a 3-2 series lead. He had 27 points, 13 assists, three steals and a block.

It was the first time a road team has a won a game in this series.

The Bucks have been on the right street in recent seasons, losing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2019 and second round last season. They are not only knocking on the championship door this season, they have opened it and are trying to walk in.

Milwaukee can win the title in Game 6 on Tuesday in Milwaukee (9 p.m. ET, ABC), and it has put itself in great position. Teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 Finals go on to win the series 72.4% of the time (21-8).

"Going home to our fans, going home to Milwaukee is a great opportunity for us," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "But you have to go out and play. It's at this point, you could feel it tonight, the high-level basketball on both sides of it. It's going to be the same in Game 6. Both teams are going to come out, expect really, really good basketball. We're going to have to compete defensively and we're going to have to make plays, play together. It's more about that.

Khris Middleton had 29 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 in the Bucks' Game 5 win.
Khris Middleton had 29 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 in the Bucks' Game 5 win.

The Suns were the best road team in the NBA during the regular season and will need one if they want to force Game 7.

Here are three keys to Milwaukee's win:

Holiday delivers

Holiday’s importance to Milwaukee’s success in Game 5 can’t be overstated. He has struggled offensively in the series, but he has a tough assignment on the efensive end, guarding Phoenix’s top scorers, including Booker and Chris Paul.

The Bucks traded for Holiday before the season for that reason, and in a game where they needed his offense, he produced. He was 12-for-20 from the field, including 3-for-6 on 3-pointers.

"One of the things we talk about all the time in the locker room is aggressive Jrue," Middleton said. "When he's aggressive, he's one of the tougher point guards to handle -- his size, his athleticism, his skill set. He can do so many things on the court when he's aggressive and getting to the paint, hitting shots like we saw tonight and finding guys. He's a balanced player and really skilled player that we're lucky to have."

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Bucks' soaring shooting

The Bucks trailed 37-21 after the first quarter. However, Milwaukee scored 102 points in in the final three quarters on 41-for-66 shooting. The Bucks not only avoided a blowout, they led for the entire second half and had a 108-94 lead with 9:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.

"We did just kind of acknowledge, they have shot it incredibly well," Budenholzer said. "If you've been in a lot of basketball games, those things can kind of even out. And if they could keep shooting it at that clip, it was going to be a tough night. But we felt like defensively we could get better and we would limit them a little bit more. And then offensively, if we're getting stops, that's when we're at our best."

Antetokounmpo, who is favorite to win Finals MVP, had 32 points on 14-for-23 shooting with nine rebounds and six assists. Khris Middleton followed up his 40-point effort in Game 4 with 29 points on 12-for-23 shooting. He also contributed seven rebounds and five assists.

"But the job is not done," Antetokounmpo said. "We have to realize that. We have got to stay in the present. It doesn't mean we are going to go back home and win Game 6."

Pat Connaughton had 14 points off the bench, making 4-of-6 3-pointers.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Booker carries Suns’ offensive load again

Booker finished with 40 points, his second consecutive game with 40 points and third 30-point game of the Finals. He had some help with all five Suns starters reaching double figures in points: Deandre Ayton (20 points, 10 rebounds), Paul (21 points, 11 assists), Mikal Bridges (13 points) and Jae Crowder (10 points).

That wasn’t enough even though Phoenix shot 55.2% from the field and 68.4% on 3-pointers.

"It was tough," Booker said. "We came out and did what we intended to do, get off to a great start and we let it go. They stayed resilient and they kept playing through. So, tough loss for us."

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bucks on verge of NBA title after holding off Suns in Game 5 thriller