How a Steal and Alley-Oop Now Leave the Bucks One Win from Title
PHOENIX – In the most consistent streak of his basketball career, Jrue Holiday threw both caution and basketball to the wind.
The Milwaukee Bucks held a one-point lead with about 21 seconds left in Game 5 of the NBA Finals when the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker slammed into the paint. Holiday, recognizing that Booker was looking for his sweet spot to shoot, sagged from Chris Paul and into Booker’s blind side. When Booker transformed into him, Holiday snatched the ball from him and ran up.
Unlikely, Holiday then lifted the ball high towards the edge rather than calmly trying to miss time, a risky proposition that could have resulted in more of a poor result, such as allowing the Suns a late lead on Saturday night, the control of the series ahead and years of questioning.
But Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks had spotted alone in open court and had asked, more than once, for the pass. Forced vacation, giving up the moment for momentum. Antetokounmpo skied and forcefully finished the alley-oop with 13.5 seconds left as Paul fouled him helplessly.
“I mean, they don’t call him the Freak for nothing,” Holiday said. “I threw it as high as I could.”
One game after landing one of the most athletic and inconceivable blocks in NBA Finals history when he denied Deandre Ayton near the edge, Antetokounmpo orchestrated an alley-oop as the stakes failed. could not have been higher.
“I was so in the moment,” Antetokounmpo said. “I wasn’t worried about the clock. I wasn’t worried about the crowds. I wasn’t worried about anything. I was afraid to have the way open and throw it away, and he trusted me.
The Bucks leaned on Holiday’s channeled fury, the timely shot of Khris Middleton and Antetokounmpo – still Antetokounmpo – in the frenzied return offer from Phoenix with a 123-119 win to claim a 3-2 advantage in this best of seven series.
The final returns to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Tuesday night, when the Bucks can win the franchise’s first championship in half a century.
“Obviously we know what the deal is,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s one game to be an NBA champion, to be in the history of this game, to always be there. You know, no one can take it away from you. To do it in front of our families and our fans is huge. It’s gonna be big. It can wait. We need to focus and continue to play basketball well.
Milwaukee grabbed the momentum for the Finals after opening the series with back-to-back losses, a deficit that only four teams in NBA history have overcome.
The Suns and Bucks successfully defended their home ground in the first four games of the series, a pattern that looked set to continue into Game 5.
Phoenix nearly passed Milwaukee in the first quarter as Holiday faced early fouling issues and a crowd that included LeBron James at the edge of the court offered their heartbreaking endorsement.
As Antetokounmpo rested, Holiday and Pat Connaughton’s goal on the bench straightened Milwaukee in the second quarter.
Phoenix increasingly relies on the output of Booker, a dynamic and versatile scorer, until the predictable crucial play that led to Antetokounmpo’s finish. The first rhythms developed by spin players like Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges disappear when their attack becomes Booker-centric.
For a second game in a row, Booker scored at least 40 points in a playoff game in which Phoenix narrowly failed.
“We have to move him,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We know what Book can do with the ball, but the only thing we talked about was going to the paint, finding some guys at the back. We have the impression that it is a formula. There were times tonight where it just stuck a bit, and against their defense, they don’t have to work against it.
Paul, who was unusually sloppy with the ball in Game 4, finished with 21 points, 11 assists and just one turnaround in Game 5.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” said Paul, in contention for his first championship in 16 NBA seasons. “We didn’t expect this to be the case. It’s hard. The coach has said it throughout the year: all we want is on the other side of the hard, and it doesn’t get any harder than that. “
Phoenix remained hopeful after the alley-oop. Antetokounmpo, a faltering free throw shooter throughout this playoff, missed his attempt with 13.5 seconds left. He stole the rebound from Middleton, who suffered a foul and secured the result with his own free throw.
“It was a horrible dud,” Ayton said of his team’s failure to get the rebound. “It was just an athletic game. He flipped it behind him knowing his teammates were there. It was a bad patch. “
Antetokounmpo delayed his post-match media session with reporters while facing cramps. He continued his sensational outing in the final with 32 points and 9 rebounds. Middleton, who went bucket-for-bucket with Booker during stretches of the second half, had 29 points. Holiday added 27 points and 13 assists.
The Bucks had been disappointing in the previous playoffs. They acquired Holiday, a ball peddling defender and respected playmaker, with a destination like those NBA Finals in mind.
His persistent all-round harassment of Paul and Booker began to pay off before his shot.
“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 most difficult leaders to manage – his size, his athleticism, his skills. He can do so much on the court when he’s aggressive and he gets to the paint, hitting punches like we’ve seen tonight and finding guys. He is a balanced player and a very talented player that we are fortunate to have.
Holiday offered a preview of his late-game drama in the third quarter. He chose Booker’s pocket and found himself alone, just over the 3-point line.
He emptied a 3-point shot without hesitation instead of waiting for his teammates.
“I went 4 for 20 the game before and we won anyway, and I know there are other things I can do to affect the game,” Holiday said. “I know when my shot is going and I try to make plays for others, that’s definitely an added bonus.”
Before Game 5, the NBA had managed to avoid absences linked to the coronavirus protocol as cases continue to pile up across the country.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee, Giannis’ older brother, missed Saturday’s game after entering NBA health and safety protocols. Thanasis Antetokounmpo played a few minutes in the playoffs, but he often motivated Giannis from the sideline.
“Just because I know him a little better, he’s probably screaming in front of the TV, and probably on the last possession he probably took off his shirt and started playing defense, sweating, jumping on the bed, “said Giannis Antetokounmpo after the game.
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