By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
(Photo courtesy of Anadolu)
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) – The Milwaukee Bucks issued a huge statement to the Phoenix Suns that they are still in the championship running through a 120-100 win in Game 3 of the National Basketball Association Finals on Monday (Philippine Time) at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee smothered Phoenix in the second quarter and banked on a strong finish in the third quarter to get one win back in their best-of-seven series.
Behind a strong start from Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul, the Suns, looking to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the finals, were ahead of the Bucks, 28-25, after the first quarter.
Milwaukee, however, held Phoenix to just 17-second quarter points as Giannis Antetokounmpo scored seven of Milwaukee’s last nine points to enter halftime ahead by 15, 60-45.
With Ayton hounded by foul trouble and Devin Booker struggling all game long, Paul got huge help in the third quarter from the Suns’ support crew, Cam Payne, Cam Johnson, and Jae Crowder, as they cut the lead down to six, 82-76, with 3:43 left in the period.
But the Bucks closed out the third on a 16-0 run to pull away for good.
Antetokounmpo finished with 41 points on 14-of-23 field goals and an impressive 13-of-17 free throws and 13 rebounds, the first player with back-to-back 40-point and 10-rebound games in the finals since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, as Milwaukee trimmed Phoenix’s series lead to 2-1.
The Greek international also had six assists and one steal.
Jrue Holiday, who struggled in Game 2 on Friday (Philippine Time), added 21 points, five rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and one block.
Despite the solid first quarter, Paul was essentially silenced the rest of the way, only finishing with 19 markers, nine assists, and one steal for the Suns.
Game 4 is on Thursday (Philippine Time) still at the Fiserv Forum. (PNA)