Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo lead Milwaukee Bucks to crucial 109-103 Game 4 win over the Phoenix Suns with clutch performances down the stretch despite Devin Booker’s 42.
The Milwaukee Bucks won’t go away quietly. And they shouldn’t. There’s a championship on the line and if I’m a Buck this afternoon, I’m feeling pretty good about my current situation.
Currently, the Bucks are two games away from the ultimate victory. But also two losses away from the ultimate defeat. Questions about futures will commence but those answers don’t need to given right now. There’s only been four games, the fourth just played last night in front of a raucous Milwaukee crowd.
And what a great Game 4 it was.
The score was nip and tuck in the first half, and the teams found themselves tied at halftime, 52-52. Khris Middleton came to play immediately, scoring 7 points in the opening quarter and totaling 16 at the half. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 12 and Brook Lopez had 10.
Chris Paul (CP3) had a measly two points at the half. No Suns player had more than 7 points besides Devin Booker, who had 20. They also had 7 turnovers.
“Well, the turnovers just crushed us tonight,” said Suns head coach Monty Williams. “We shot 50 percent from the field, but they got 19 more possessions. Over the course of the game when you just give it up that many times the turnovers and offensive rebounding was a bit of a hill for us to climb.”
The third quater was Devin Booker’s show, dominating with 18 points. But the fourth quarter was Khris Middleton’s show.
He put the Bucks on his back, scoring 14 of the 33 points the Bucks scored compared to the Suns’ 21. He finished the game with 40 points, 6 reb, and 4 assists.
“You need somebody who can make those shots. He [Middleton] and Giannis in a pick-and-roll, Giannis setting great screens. Khris, I thought he had some good looks kind of early. But then he just stayed with it. Credit to him,” said Budenholzer. “A lot of big, tough shots, and then the tough finish in transition. He was special. A lot of good stuff from Khris. And defensively, too, I think he’s given us a lot on that end.”
The catalyst in the game came in the fourth quarter in a sequence. At the 2:07 mark, Middleton drains a jumper making the score 99-99. Booker misses a jumper on the other end and Middleton comes back with another basket. Score is 101-99.
At the 1:14 mark, Booker and Ayton engaged in pick-and-roll action. Giannis comes to help and when he does, Booker lobs it to Ayton. Giannis doubles back in remarkable recovery time, blocking Ayton’s dunk at the rim.
“Their [Ayton & Booker] connection in the pick-and-roll game, their ability to make plays is very good,” said Budenholzer. “Giannis just made a spectacular block, spectacular play. His ability to cover ground and get to that point, get to the top. That’s an NBA Finals special moment right there, and we’re going to need more of them. His impact on the game on both ends of the court — it’s a big-time block. That’s what he’s capable of.”
The Suns never got close again and the Bucks won 109-103. Middleton expressed his pleasure in the team’s ability to close out the game.
“That’s something that we struggled with sometimes during the season. But what we said, that’s what it’s all about, learning, learning how to win different types of ballgames, different styles. And that’s what that was moment was about, finding a way to win a game where it seemed like we weren’t going to win, and give us a chance to still have a life, going to Phoenix with a little bit of confidence, with a little bit of momentum.”
On the Suns side, bad shooting night for everyone except Devin Booker. Too many turnovers and not enough effort on the glass. The Suns find themselves tied instead of up 3 with one more game for the championship glory.
CP3 will want to burn Game 4’s film, and now he’ll have three days to think about this horrendous performance. There was speculation that CP3 could be injured but Williams shut that down.
“No, he’s fine. Great players have games like that. We expect him to bounce back. He had five [turnovers], but we had 17 and they scored 24 points, you know what I mean? That was pretty much the game right there,” said Williams. “Then you double that up with the offensive rebounding, so it wasn’t just Chris. As a team tonight, we got to take better care of the ball.”