The road team finally won a game in this series. Both teams’ Big Threes finally all had great games together. And the Bucks took a 3-2 lead by a score of 123-119, giving themselves the chance to close this thing out and bring home Milwaukee’s first NBA title since 1971.
After being the scapegoat for most of the series, Jrue Holiday came up huge with “The Rip,” a steal that will go down in history as one of the great moments in Finals history:
The Bucks were up by as much as 14 in the 4th quarter, and had a 10-point lead with just 3:25 to play, but suddenly found themselves clinging to a one-point lead with 24 seconds to play and Phoenix with the ball. Devin Booker, who had yet another great game, was driving to the hoop but had to slam on the brakes because Giannis rotated to help PJ Tucker out and wall Booker off. When Booker stopped, he went to turn around, and that’s where Holliday was waiting for him. Holliday ripped the ball, started the fast-break, and found Giannis for the alley-oop and-one to essentially seal the deal.
It was a great game with plenty of momentum swings each way and obviously coming down to the final seconds. Early on, it looked like the Suns were going to run away with it as they ended the first quarter up 37-21, but Milwaukee roared back and by halftime they were up 3.
It just seems like the longer these playoff series go, the better the Bucks are. They dropped the first two games in Phoenix but have now won three straight.
And for the first time in the series, everyone on Milwaukee was great at the same time:
This was Jrue Holiday’s moment, for sure. We all know about his shooting struggles in the four prior games: he was a combined 23-69 from the field, or just 33.3% But last night he was 12-20 from the field for 27 points and had a +14 net rating, best on the team.
You look at the stats and everyone on Milwaukee was great. Somehow Giannis was a -7 in the game, which is not normal for him in this series, but it was okay because his teammates finally stepped up. And he still had an efficient 32, 9 and 6. Milwaukee’s Big Three combined for 88 points on 38-66 shooting from the field. Overall, Milwaukee shot 57.5% from the field and 50% from three.
Phoenix was great as a team, too. This was the first game in the series where both teams’ shots were consistently falling:
Ayton bounced back after his 3-9 for 6 points performance in Game 4. Chris Paul bounced back as well with 21 and 11 on 9-15 shooting. And Booker followed up his 42-point Game 4 with a 40-piece on 51% shooting. Hats off to him, it was a great performance until “The Rip” happened.
Jrue Holliday’s clutch steal was exactly why the Bucks went out and got him in the offseason: he is one of the very best defensive guards in the whole league, and now he’s finally getting that recognition.
Last September, KD went on JJ Redick’s podcast and the two agreed that Jrue Holliday is the best defensive guard in the league:
They talked about how there’s a disconnect between the guys the media thinks are great defenders and the guys who NBA players themselves regard as the toughest defenders, and Jrue is a guy the media hasn’t really given a lot of recognition until quite recently. Andre Iguodala thinks Jrue is the best defender in the league, and Dame Lillard said the same thing.
It’s good that Holiday is now getting that recognition.
As for the series overall, I think a lot of people were expecting Phoenix to defend home court and win that game. Just the way this series has gone, with the home team winning the first four games, the consensus was that the trend would continue. But the Bucks are a veteran team that doesn’t get rattled and never quits, and they found a way to get it done on the road.
It does feel like the Bucks will get it done and clinch the title at home in Game 6. I don’t want to say the Suns are toast, but it just seems like the Bucks have figured Phoenix out, taken control of the series and are going to win this thing. They just have so much size, toughness and veteran experience, and I think at this point they’re just too much for the Suns.
But then again, most people didn’t expect the Bucks to steal Game 5, so it’s possible Phoenix can steal Game 6. You never know.
The issue, though, is that the Suns played basically their best possible game, and it still wasn’t enough. They shot 55% from the field and a ridiculous 68% from three. Booker had 40 again, Chris Paul and Ayton both had very typical statlines, and they got decent contributions from both Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges.
When both teams played their best game, Milwaukee came out on top. I have a hard time envisioning Phoenix playing better on the road in Game 6 than they did last night, y’know? Booker would have to go for like 50.
Plus, Milwaukee was only 9-17 from the free throw line last night, and they’re always better at the line at home.
It really was a crushing loss for Phoenix. They outscored Milwaukee in the paint 52-46. They were +3 in the turnover margin (although -1 in points off turnovers), and they were only -2 in the rebounding margin, which is great considering how much bigger Milwaukee is.
There wasn’t a whole lot more Phoenix could’ve done to win that game. That’s what makes it such a demoralizing loss for them. It’s hard to bounce back from losses like that.
My original pick in this series was Suns in 7, but I don’t feel very confident in it anymore. I think the Bucks have taken control of the series and will close it out Tuesday night.