Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo was the most dominant force on the field in the second game of the NBA Finals, but Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns dug the two-time MVP a 2-0 series hole.
Booker and Chris Paul had an answer for each Bucks race, scoring 31 and 23 points, respectively, in a 118-108 victory that threw the Suns within two wins after their first championship when the series moved to Milwaukee.
Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday at. 20 ET on ABC.
Antetokounmpo scored a high of 42 points on 15-to-22 shooting (11-18 FT) and added 12 rebounds. Bucks co-stars Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday combined just 12 against 37 from the field (32%).
Phoenix set a franchise playoff record with 20 3-pointers on 40 attempts. Six Suns made several triples, led by Bookers seven. Mikal Bridges added 27 points. DeAndre Ayton (1
Holiday called up his much-needed aggression at first, attacking the basket and accepting Paul as his defensive task. The Bucks outscored Phoenix 20-0 in the paint in the first quarter. Milwaukee made no mistake and only a turnover in the opening frame. It was Bucks basketball at its best. Still, the Suns only followed 29-26 because five of them combined to make eight 3-pointers in the first 12 minutes.
They added three more in a 30-point second quarter that turned the tide. The Seven Suns scored in stanza and Mikal Bridges led them with 13 points in the half, they led 56-45. The Bucks shot 36% into the break.
Antetokounmpo dominated the third, scoring 20 of the team’s 33 points – his most in a single quarter of his playoff career – and assisting on six more, but Milwaukee got some ground. Flaming hot Phoenix got 22 points combined from Booker and Paul in the frame of 9-to-14 shooting (4 for 5 from 3-point distance).
Antetokounmpo’s 20-point quarter is the first in the final since Michael Jordan hit this mark in 1993.
On strength from Antetokounmpo, the Bucks trimmed the deficit to five with 8:45 left in the game, but he landed awkwardly on a blocked shot, leaving for 58 seconds, and the Suns pushed their lead back to 10. Bookers seventh 3-night pointer gave Phoenix a 103 -90 lead through the middle of the fourth quarter.
“These are the moments he lives for,” Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters after the victory. “He’s not running from it. I’ve seen it from him for two years. He’s just stepping up and making big plays … The thing with Devin, he’s shooting the same way – first quarter, fourth quarter, it does not matter. Hans “shots look the same. It’s a guy who’s put a lot of work into his shot, but the mentality, he’s calm in those moments.”
Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday made one last push and responded with a 7-0 run that brought the Bucks back within two possessions. Milwaukee Reserve Pat Connaughton got a clean look at a 3-pointer that would have made it 103-100 just within five minutes left. Instead, his miss rejected the comeback.
Two offensive rebounds on Phoenix’s next possession eventually landed the ball in Paul’s stable hands, which drilled a 3-pointer to make it a nine-point game. Milwaukee never climbed again within eight.
The loss spoiled a remarkable effort in Antetokounmpo’s second game back from a knee that was widened further. Home cooking better earn other Bucks some points because they can not ask for more of their superstar.
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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Do you have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach
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