Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks made the return of the NBA Finals to Milwaukee a resounding success.
The way the Greek Freak is going, the party could be getting started.
Antetokounmpo had 41 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and the Bucks defeated Phoenix 120-100 on Sunday night, reducing the Suns’ lead to 2-1.
The first game of the NBA Finals in Milwaukee since 1974 was for the home team in a tumble, with Antetokounmpo and the bigger Bucks overwhelming the little Suns with a 20-2 lead in second-chance points.
“We knew what kind of game it was going to be,” Antetokounmpo said. “We knew we had to come here, play basketball well and compete as hard as possible.”
Game four is Wednesday night, with the series guaranteed to return to Phoenix afterward.
Antetokounmpo, who missed the last two games of the Eastern Conference final due to a hyperextended left knee and wasn’t sure he was ready to start this series, followed up his 42-point, 12-rebound performance in Game 2 by doing so. all over again even making his free throws this time.
Back in front of his own fans and free from the loud recounts he’s been hearing on the road, Antetokounmpo went with 13 of 17 on the line.
Chris Paul had 19 points and nine assists, but the Suns got next to nothing from their star teammate in the backcourt. Devin Booker was 3 of 14 correct, scoring just 10 points.
Jrue Holiday bounced back from two bad games at Phoenix with five 3s and 21 points to get the Bucks back on track to come back, having already overcome a 2-0 deficit this postseason. Khris Middleton added 18.
Fans popped their “Bucks at 6! Dollars in 6! “scream when Milwaukee started to pull away in the first half and then again when the benches emptied in the closing minutes.
“We knew what we had to do,” Holiday said. “We have been in this position before. We knew what this game meant to us and what it meant to the city. “
The Bucks are seeking their second NBA title and haven’t even played for one in 47 years. They took control of this game by beating Phoenix 30-9 in the final nine minutes of the second quarter, then finished the third with a 16-0 finish.
Fans started heading to the Deer District out of the arena in the middle of the afternoon, with so many fans dressed in green that the Fiserv Forum felt more like Fiserv Forest.
They couldn’t cheer as much as they wanted at first after a strong start from the Suns, who got 12 points from Deandre Ayton in the opening period.
But Ayton was hampered by foul problems and the Bucks soon ran for the Suns and kept going.
Antetokounmpo had seven straight points to end a 9-0 run in the second that gave Milwaukee a six-point lead, and after Phoenix scored four in a row, the Bucks took off again with a 16-3 run.
Bobby Portis had the last two baskets of the half, finishing off a fairly quick fast break with a dunk for one of them, and it was 60-45 at the break.
The lead was 13 with less than eight minutes to go in the third when Cam Johnson took a pass near the middle of the court with an open path to the basket. PJ Tucker tried to intervene but it was too late, and Johnson threw it on him as he fouled.
That triggered a 14-5 streak that cut him to 74-70 and appeared to have the Suns back in the game. Just as quickly, they were beside themselves again.
Holiday hit two 3s in the next minute and Milwaukee pushed the lead to nine, and by the end of the third it had shot up to 98-76.
The Bucks, who lost the first two games to Brooklyn in the second round, avoided falling into a 3-0 hole that no NBA team has escaped.
They limited the Suns to nine 3-pointers after Phoenix hit 20 in their Game 2 win.
Ayton and Jae Crowder each had 18 points for the Suns. But Mikal Bridges, who had 27 in Game 2, his best mark in the playoffs, took just four shots and scored four points.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism