Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams is bullish that Chris Paul will respond in Saturday's Game 5 after an uncharacteristic display with five turnovers in Game 4's defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks squared up the NBA Finals at 2-2 with Wednesday's 109-103 win over the Suns, with Williams ruing his side's 17 turnovers which led to 24 Milwaukee points.

Paul was guilty of five turnovers, including a crucial late error allowing Khris Middleton to score as the Bucks raced away in the final quarter after trailing by six points at three-quarter time.

The 36-year-old Suns guard also only managed 10 points for the game, shooting at 38.5 per cent from the field and failing to hit one three-pointer but Williams backed him to respond in Game 5 back in Arizona.

"A blip on the screen, that's how I would term it," Williams told the pre-game news conference. "You're not going to see Chris having those kinds of games frequently.

"I've been around long enough and coached against him long enough. I'd term it a blip on the radar."

He added: "There's not a person in our locker room that's not expecting to not come out and play really well the next game."

Williams added that Paul, who has battled hand and shoulder injuries during the postseason, was fine physically and fully focused.

"I just see Chris being Chris," Williams siad. "He's always intentional about everything, he's focused.

"I find myself struggling when I can't help him. That's what we've talked about the last couple of days.

"Chris is fine. He's focused. He's all about winning. The conversations are all about basketball right now. We know what's in front of us."

Paul has averaged 18.7 points per game and 8.6 assists per game this postseason, shooting at 48.5 per cent from the field.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker was sensational with 42 points in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but he said his performance "doesn’t matter at all" as his team lost.

The Milwaukee Bucks squared up the series at 2-2 with Wednesday's 109-103 win over the Suns.

Booker had scored 18 points in the third quarter to earn Phoenix a six-point lead heading into the final chapter, but the Bucks responded with an impressive 33-21 last-quarter charge.

The 24-year-old had a poor shooting display in Game 3 with 10 points, shooting at 21.4 per cent from the field.

But Booker's 38 points across the first three quarters in Game 4 was tied for the second most at that stage of a game in the NBA Finals across the last 25 years, behind only Stephen Curry (40) in 2019 and level with Allen Iverson in 2001.

Booker also surpassed Rick Barry (521) and Julius Erving (518) for most points scored in a player's first NBA playoffs campaign.

"It doesn't matter at all," Booker said at the post-game media conference when asked about his individual performance.

"I said that after last game too when I struggled shooting it. The main objective is to win the game. Anything that goes on throughout the game it doesn’t matter, for real."

Booker's team-mate Chris Paul had five turnovers for the game as the Suns offered up 17 as a team, which head coach Monty Williams identified as a chief reason for the defeat.

Paul took a back seat to Booker but was below his best, finishing with only 10 points, shooting at 38.5 per cent from the field and missing both of his two three-point attempts.

Williams insisted 36-year-old Paul, who has had injury troubles throughout these playoffs, was not hampered.

"He's fine," the Suns head coach said. "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 [from turnovers]. That was pretty much the game right there, when you double that up with the offensive rebounding.

"It wasn’t just Chris. We've got to take better care of the ball."

Williams added that he knew Booker was ready to respond in Game 4 after his ordinary shooting display in the previous outing.

"When he can stop on a dime and get guys up on the air, he has his legs underneath him, it's something I see in the shootaround," he said. "I can see when he's got his legs."

The NBA Finals returns to Arizona for Game 5 on Saturday.

Paul added: "You can't just bank on the fact you've got home court. You've got to go out and play the game and execute. We'll do that.

"We tend to respond well. we know what we've got to do. Be better."

Giannis Antetokounmpo says he "thought he was going to get dunked on" for his remarkable last-quarter block to deny Deandre Ayton in Wednesday's Game 4 win for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks got home 109-103 over the Phoenix Suns, storming home down the stretch with a 33-21 final quarter after trailing by six points at three-quarter time.

Antetokounmpo, who had 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, came up with a huge play with the Bucks 101-99 up with 1:15 to play, as Devin Booker tried to alley-oop Ayton, with the Greek forward recovering to leap up to block the center's attempt.

"Just hustle play. I thought I was going to get dunked on," Antetokounmpo said at the post-game news conference.

"Going down the stretch do whatever takes to win the game."

Antetokounmpo said he saw the play coming as Booker put the ball in his right hand, with Ayton looming in the paint behind him.

"I saw the play coming, so I was just going to jump vertical towards the rim and I was able to get a good block and get two points [down the other end]," he said.

"It doesn’t surprise me. I saw it coming. Once I saw him put it on his one hand, he was too far for a lay-up.

"You can feel it, I felt him rolling towards the rim behind me. I knew the only chance to get a stop was to jump towards the rim and cover that angle.

"I was late. If I was on the opposite side, it's a dunk."

Antetokounmpo's defensive contribution was significant but Khris Middleton finished with 40 points for the game, including 14 in the final quarter.

The 26-year-old Greek said he was "proud" of his team-mate for his ability to close the game out.

"We've done this a lot of times," Antetokounmpo said. "There's times going down the stretch, I've got to trust him and he's got to trust me.

"We've closed so many games. We've lost a lot of games but closing a game like this in the NBA Finals means a lot but we cannot be satisfied."

The series moves back to Arizona for Game 5 on Friday locked at 2-2, with both sides winning their games on their home courts.

Middleton added: "Whatever we're doing here, we've got to find a way to do it there. The only way we can win this series is to get one on the road. It'd be nice to get this next one but first we need to get some rest."

The Milwaukee Bucks have squared up the NBA Finals at 2-2 after a thrilling 109-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns despite Devin Booker's 42-point haul on Wednesday.

The Suns led by six points at the final change but the Bucks, who trailed 2-0 in the series, stormed home led by Khris Middleton's 14 fourth-quarter points, finishing with 40 for the game.

Middleton starred with strong support from Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists) and Jrue Holiday (13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists).

After scores were level at half-time, Booker had piled on 18 points in the third quarter but Milwaukee made the key plays count in the final quarter.

Antetokounmpo made a crucial late block to deny Deandre Ayton from Booker's alley-oop lob, while Pat Connaughton came up with a key three-pointer.

Chris Paul had five turnovers for the game, including a late costly error which allowed Holiday to assist Middleton for two which put the Bucks four up with 27.2 seconds to play.

Phoenix shot better from the field, going at 51.3 per cent compared to Milwaukee's 40.2 per cent although they lost their radar late, but the Suns had 17-5 turnovers, with the Bucks scoring 24-5 points on turnover.

Middleton was a key influence for the Bucks, shooting 15 from 33 from the field along with three three-pointers, with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Middleton's 40-point haul was his postseason career high, while he outscored the Suns in the final two-minute stretch with 10-4 points.

Antetokounmpo put up 11 from 19 from the field at 57.9 per cent, while Brook Lopez chipped in a handy 14 points, although he and Holiday both missed all five of their three-point attempts.

Booker, who had his worst game of the playoffs in Game 3, responded with an excellent performance, shooting at 60.7 per cent from the field.

The young Suns guard almost fouled out late, with a non-call on a Holiday bucket with 3:30 to go but ultimately it would not be decisive.

The Phoenix Suns enter Game 4 of the NBA Finals with a difficult question to answer: how can they contain Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo when Deandre Ayton is not on the court?

Milwaukee cut Phoenix's lead in the series to 2-1 with a 120-100 victory on their home floor in Game 3.

It came behind a scintillating 41-point performance from Antetokounmpo, the two-time league MVP delivering a performance few could have foreseen when he hyperextended his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Antetokounmpo also had 13 rebounds in putting up a decisive double-double, taking advantage of another knee injury that could well prove a turning point in the series.

The Suns were without Dario Saric, the backup to starting center Ayton, in Game 3 because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in Game 2.

Coach Monty Williams initially went with Frank Kaminsky as Ayton's deputy, but also attempted to play small ball with Torrey Craig and Abdel Nader.

The plus-minus numbers for Kaminsky (-12), Craig (-12) and Nadel (-5) tell their own story. Milwaukee dominated when Ayton was not out there, outrebounding the Suns 47 to 36.

In this series, when Ayton has been on the court, the Bucks average 110.0 points per 100 possessions, compared to 125.3 with the former first overall pick off the floor.

Milwaukee's rebounds per 100 possessions with Ayton on the bench jump to 50.3 from 46.8 when he plays.

Similarly, the Bucks are substantially more effective from the three-point line without the presence of Ayton to deal with, converting 46.4 per cent of their shots from beyond the arc in the series compared to 34.7 when he is trying to stop them.

For all the attention lavished on Devin Booker and Chris Paul, Ayton arguably stands as the key player for the Suns if they are to claim a first NBA title.

Should there be a repeat performance in Game 4 on Wednesday when Ayton is forced to rest, then Antetokounmpo will have an excellent chance to improve his Finals average of 34.3 points per game and, more importantly, help the Bucks level the series.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Milwaukee Bucks – Brook Lopez

Another player who can capitalise on the blow the Suns have suffered to their big man depth is Lopez, the Bucks center who is averaging 6.7 points in the paint per game in the series – behind only Antetokounmpo and Ayton.

Lopez has produced double-digit points in four of his past five outings in this postseason, including a 33-point effort against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals as the Bucks prevailed without the injured Antetokounmpo. Third in effective field goal percentage (60.9) among centers with 30 attempts or more this postseason, Lopez could compound the impact of Saric's absence for the Suns.

Phoenix Suns – Deandre Ayton

That his Finals numbers are inferior to those of Antetokounmpo is largely reflective of the point-scoring and creative burden taken on by Booker and Paul respectively. However, Ayton is the Suns player most should have their eyes on in Game 4.

He has averaged 35 minutes in this series compared to 37.7 for Antetokounmpo; will Williams up Ayton's time on the court in response to the events of Game 3 when he rested? Or will the Suns coach find a way to minimise the damage during Ayton's time on the bench? The answers could eventually decide the destination of the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker says "short memory" will help him move on from his disastrous Game 3 shooting performance ahead of Game 4 on Wednesday.

Booker shot three from 14 from the field, going at 21.4 per cent, and only made one from seven three-point attempts in Game 3, finishing on 10 points as the Milwaukee Bucks won 120-100.

The result pulled the NBA Finals series back to 2-1 in the Suns' favour ahead of Game 4 in Milwaukee.

"Short memory, just move on," Booker said when asked how when asked about his Game 3 shooting.

Booker had scored 31 and 27 points in the opening two Finals games, shooting at 48 per cent and 38.1 per cent respectively, as well as hitting seven three-pointers in Game 2.

The 22-year-old has already scored 500 points this postseason, steering the Suns to their first NBA Finals in 28 years.

Despite the momentum shift in the series and his own poor display, Booker remained unflapped.

"Just understanding the task at hand and simply you just have to be better if you want to win the game," Booker said.

"That's obviously something I want and something this whole team and coaching staff and training staff wants and this whole city wants.

"I would say it's a good pressure. These are the moments that you prepare for and that you train so hard for, what we're in right now. You have to be excited about it."

Milwaukee won praise for their defensive efforts on Booker in Game 3, but Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said his side expected him to be much improved in Game 4.

"I wouldn't say there was one specific thing or anything we did different," Budenholzer said.

"He's a great player, but he's human also. I think we're expecting we're going to have to be even better on him.

"We just got to be prepared for a really good Devin Booker going into Game 4."

The Phoenix Suns received a "tough lesson" in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, but head coach Monty Williams expects his players to bounce back from the defeat.

Having won the opening two games of the best-of-seven series in Phoenix, the Suns went down 120-100 to a determined Milwaukee team on Sunday. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 41 points - making him the first player to reach 40 in back-to-back outings in the NBA Finals since LeBron James in 2016 - but it was far from a one-man show for the Bucks, as four other players also reached double digits.

Williams had warned his team to expect a backlash from their opponents, whose aggressive approach - Milwaukee had 13 offensive rebounds and attempted 26 free throws - helped spark life into the battle to decide the identity of this season's NBA champions.

"There's a lot of ways you can spin it, but they played with a great deal of aggression for longer stretches than we did," Williams told the media.

"We knew it was coming. We did not respond to it well tonight, especially in the second and third quarters.

"The turnovers certainly hurt us, points in the paint, everything we have been talking about the whole series. So it was a tough lesson for us to learn.

"You know what was coming, but just didn't do enough consistently to withstand their attacking the paint, whether it was penetration, offensive rebounding.

"We gave them so many possessions, so we lost a shot and then they scored off of it. It was a double whammy."

He added: "I think we know that we have to play with an unreal amount of aggression and energy for 48 minutes. That's the deal. All of our guys know that we didn't.

"We have had this happen to us before in the playoffs, and so I expect our guys to bounce back."

Chris Paul had 19 points for Phoenix and Deandre Ayton contributed 18 before running into foul trouble, restricting the center to just 24 minutes of action. Without him, Phoenix struggled to get defensive stops.

"He's a big part of our team, especially he's the anchor of our defense," Paul, who also had nine assists but landed just one of his four three-point attempts, said about Ayton.

"I feel like any team would love for him not to be on court offensively and defensively. So, yeah, we got to protect him better and make sure that we're showing that wall."

It was not just Paul who struggled from long range for the Suns, with the visiting team making just nine of their 31 attempts from beyond the arc for a success rate of 29 per cent.

The Suns had not trailed by more than seven at the half in the playoffs prior to Game 3, when the deficit stood at 15 following a dominant second quarter by the Bucks.

Game 4 takes place in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

"I said after last game, this team is not going to give in," Suns guard Devin Booker told the media.

"They're going to keep playing all the way through, so we have to bring that same effort that we had in the first two games and I think we'll be in good shape."

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer praised Giannis Antetokounmpo for his aggressive mindset after he starred in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

Antetokounmpo posted 41 points to see the Bucks past the Phoenix Suns 120-100 on Sunday, becoming the first player to score 40-plus points in back-to-back NBA Finals games since LeBron James in 2016.

The win was crucial for the Bucks, who now trail the Suns 2-1, and Budenholzer lauded Antetokounmpo's performance.

"He's just doing whatever it takes to help his team, to help us. He's in an aggressive mindset. He always plays that way," he told a news conference.

"But I thought he played with the pass well. He made some great reads, found guys, played against the zone.

"He just did a little bit of everything. Offensive boards, putbacks. We need a lot from him and that's what he does."

While Antetokounmpo starred, the Bucks also had Jrue Holiday (21), Khris Middleton (18), Brook Lopez (11) and Bobby Portis (11) in double digits for points.

Antetokounmpo also finished with 13 rebounds and six assists and Budenholzer said the star's ability to bring his team-mates into games was crucial.

"I think that's when we are at our best, when Giannis is at his best, it's a little bit of both," he said.

"He's a great playmaker, screener, passer and he does so many great things.

"I think when he's conscious of doing a little bit of everything, he's very capable and that's when he's at his best."

Game 4 of the series is in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's 41-point outing saw the Milwaukee Bucks to an important 120-100 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

With the Bucks trailing 2-0, they needed a response at home at Fiserv Forum and Antetokounmpo helped them deliver.

Antetokounmpo finished with 41 points on 14-of-23 shooting, along with 13 rebounds and six assists.

He was the first player to score 40-plus points in back-to-back NBA Finals games since LeBron James in 2016.

The dominant win halved the Suns' series lead ahead of Game 4 in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Jrue Holiday (21), Khris Middleton (18), Brook Lopez (11) and Bobby Portis (11) also had double digits in points for the Bucks.

Milwaukee put together powerful runs to finish the second and third quarters which set up their win.

They went 16-3 to finish the first half and 16-0 to end the third quarter.

The 15-point deficit marked the first time in these playoffs the Suns had trailed by more than seven at half-time.

Phoenix were unable to get much going as Chris Paul finished with 19 points, while Devin Booker was three-of-14 from the field for his 10 points.

Cam Johnson had 14 points off the bench for the Suns, including a huge dunk in the third quarter.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is refusing to put pressure on himself as the Milwaukee Bucks aim to get back into contention in the NBA Finals.

The Bucks – in search of their first championship since 1971 – have left themselves with a lot to do heading into Game 3, with the Phoenix Suns holding a 2-0 lead in the series.

Though back on home turf for Game 3 and Game 4, the Bucks do not have history on their side. Indeed, in Finals series, teams that have taken a 2-0 lead have gone on to win the title 31 out of 35 times (88.6 per cent).

The Suns are used to seeing out victory from this position, too, having led 2-0 in three consecutive series.

However, Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo, whose 28.1 points per game ranked fifth in the NBA in the regular season, insists Milwaukee must enjoy the occasion in order to get themselves back in the fight.

"Obviously, I know it's the Finals; we all understand what kind of game we are getting ourselves into," Antetokounmpo told reporters, as quoted by ESPN.

"So, we know what we have got to do. But at the end of the day, you've got to keep it light. You cannot tell yourself, 'Oh, it's the Finals, you've got to do this, there's so much pressure, man.'

"No, it's still basketball. It's easy to say, hard to do; but at the same time, you have to try to approach it that way. Just got to keep it light, got to keep the ball light, got to keep the atmosphere light.

"Once we go out there and you see the fans, you know that you understand what kind of game you're into. But personally, one thing that helps me that I do is keep it light and enjoy that.

"Knowing I enjoy things, I really put my heart into it. If I don't enjoy it, I'm just going through the motions. So, I just try to enjoy it, enjoy this, try to enjoy that I'm here.

"We have come a long way to be in this position, and we've got to try to make the best out of it. That's what we did, I guess, in the first round, in the second round, in the third round. That's what we'll do now, and hopefully, it works out in our favour."

Devin Booker led the Suns with 31 points in Game 2, but veteran Chris Paul – excelling in his Finals debut – continues to be the primary topic of conversation in Phoenix.

“Watching film with [Paul], he'll call something out that was so far away from the ball or what happened," Booker said.

"He’s going to make sure he gets right back to it. He's going to rewind it, no matter if it was a minute, two minutes ago in the game, and stress it. Those are the details I'm talking about that we've learned can make or break a game for you. And in this time of the year, you need every game you can get.

"It's the highest level of basketball, and for me, it's been a new experience. It's been a joy to be a part of it and dissecting the game and doctoring the game in that regard."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Phoenix Suns – Devin Booker


Booker has been outstanding for the Suns this postseason and has averaged 29.0 points in this series so far, but he has turned in two very contrasting displays.

The sixth-year guard, involved in the playoffs for the first time, shot a disappointing 38.1 per cent in Game 1 but made 10 of 10 free throws. His Game 2 field-goal percentage increased to 48.0 per cent – carried by seven-of-12 shooting from three – yet he did not visit the foul line once.

Should he be able to combine the two, both drawing fouls and making shots, Milwaukee can have no answer for Booker.

Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo

After a slightly unconvincing Game 1 on his return from injury, Antetokounmpo was back to his best in Game 2 with a playoff career-high 42 points on 68.2 per cent shooting – also matching his best postseason field-goal percentage, set against the Boston Celtics in 2019.

But the Bucks still lost, as their second and third men failed to fire. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton – one out of form, the other inconsistent – are averaging a combined 34.0 points per game and 36.4 per cent field-goal percentage as the team's starting backcourt, while Paul and Booker are together delivering 56.5 points on 49.4 per cent shooting.

Those numbers simply have to improve to keep Antetokounmpo in games; the two-time MVP might be looking to "keep it light" but needs the platform to be a difference-maker.

The Milwaukee Bucks may be trailing 2-0 in the NBA Finals but star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to keep things relaxed ahead of Game 3 on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo was outstanding with 42 points and 12 rebounds in Thursday's 118-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns which left the Bucks 2-0 down ahead of the series moving to Milwaukee.

Out of the 35 sides who have trailed 2-0 in NBA Finals history, only four have lifted the title, but despite that the Greek star was in a relaxed mood ahead of Game 3.

"I know it's the Finals," Antetokounmpo said at Saturday's media conference. "We know what we've got to do but at the end of the day, you've got to keep it light.

"You cannot tell yourself, 'Oh, it's the Finals. You got to do this. There's so much pressure, man.' No, like it's still basketball.

"It's easy to say, hard to do; but at the same time, you have to try to approach it that way. Just got to keep it light. Got to keep the ball light. You've got to keep the atmosphere light."

Antetokounmpo backed under-fire team-mate Khris Middleton, who only managed 11 points in Game 2, when pressed on his performances.

The 26-year-old also said he approached Game 2 with more aggression, leading to his improved output after 20 points in Game 1, which marked his return from a knee hyperextension injury.

"I was just trying to be more aggressive," he said. "That's all and we didn’t win the game, so it doesn’t really matter.

"From Game 1 to Game 2, I was just trying to be more aggressive and involved in actions."

Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said small forward Torrey Craig's status was uncertain ahead of Game 3 after twisting his right knee in the third quarter on Thursday.

"He got some testing done yesterday," Williams said. "All of that came back clean, but he's still sore. So I can't make much of a statement on his availability or anything like that."

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker says his side will revert back to a "0-0 mindset" despite taking a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals with a 118-108 Game 2 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

Booker starred with 31 points, including seven three-pointers, along with five rebounds and six assists in the victory.

Three of Booker's three-pointers were in the final quarter when the Bucks closed within five points.

The victory means the Suns become the 36th side to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals, with 31 of those previous 35 sides going on to lift the title.

Booker was not getting carried away as the series moves to Milwaukee for Game 3 on Saturday.

"It's a 0-0 mindset going into Game 3," Booker said post-game. "It's a Game 7 for us. Every game is a Game 7 at this stage of the season.

"We're locked in. We know it gets rowdy there in Milwaukee but we're ready for it."

Booker brushed off any individual plaudits at the post-game news conference, nor praise for keeping his cool with his fourth-quarter shooting.

"It's just team basketball," Booker said. "A few of them were open. We prepare for these moments. Nobody is running from any action or any moment.

"It's not just me, setting my man up Deandre [Ayton]. Setting a screen from Chris [Paul] to get me open, it's all a collective group.

"That's why I feel we've been successful for most of the year."

All five Phoenix starters finished with points in double digits, with Paul having 23 points as well as eight assists. Mikal Bridges had a personal playoffs high of 27 points.

The Suns' depth will be tested with Torrey Craig going down injured in the third quarter with a right knee contusion, with Dario Saric already ruled out of the NBA Finals after tearing his ACL in Game 1.

Booker played 44 minutes before sitting out the closing stages with the Suns in a strong position.

"Just preserving my body," he said. "I felt like we had it in a good place. We believe in our team. Two days to get right, then we're back in Milwaukee."

Booker won special praise from Paul, who has offered him a license to shoot.

"[He's] big time. He's trained and work his whole life for these moments," Paul said. "Our team all season long, you put the work in, they get the results. When Book's shooting, I expect it to go in, I get mad at him when he doesn’t shoot."

Giannis Antetokounmpo has backed team-mate Jrue Holiday to step up when his side needs it after a sub-par performance in the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Finals Game 2 loss on Thursday.

Holiday has been a key part of the Bucks' success this season but shot 17 points at 33.3 per cent from the field, making only one from three beyond the arc in the 118-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Khris Middleton also battled, making 11 points at 31.3 per cent from the field, while he only hit one from six three-point attempts.

The Bucks are now facing a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals, with only four sides in league history lifting the title from that position.

"[I'll] keep talking to him, keep telling him to be aggressive," Antetokounmpo said at the post-game news conference. "It's not about me, it's not about him, it's not about Khris [Middleton], it's not about coach, it's about all of us.

"If there's a game where you're three from 12 or whatever, if you can rebound, or get a steal or do something to help the team win, that's what it's all about.

"I don’t worry at all about him. He's going to be there when we need him the most.

"He's a great basketball player. He's played great all year and he's going to continue to play great for this team."

Holiday has averaged 17.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game this playoffs but his shooting let him down in Game 2 under pressure from the Suns defense.

Antetokounmpo stepped up, scoring 42 points for Milwaukee, along with 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

The Greek forward's 20-point third-quarter effort was the best in the NBA Finals since Michael Jordan scored 22 against the Suns in 1993.

Antetokounmpo's output was also the first 40-plus point and 10-plus rebound game in Bucks' NBA Finals history.

The 26-year-old, who hyper-extended his left knee in the Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, went down late in the match, limping to the bench. He returned to the court and insisted it was nothing to worry about ahead of Game 3 in Milwaukee on Saturday.

"It's just cramp," he said. "I didn’t think it was connected to my knee."

Antetokounmpo also insisted the knee injury was not concerning him during games, after missing the final two games of the Hawks series.

"When I'm not out there, it's not about testing it more, if I'm out there, I'm trying to play and help my team win in any way possible," he said.

"When you start thinking about your knee, or toe or pinky, or whatever, you're making excuses in your mind. You're out there, just play the game, do whatever you can, leave it on the floor."

The Phoenix Suns have shot their way to a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals with a 118-108 Game 2 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

The Suns drained 20 three-pointers, including eight in the first quarter, shooting at 50 per cent from beyond the arc on their way to victory, headlined by young guard Devin Booker with 31 points, five rebounds and six assists.

Booker hit seven-from-12 three-point attempts, while veteran Chris Paul scored three three-pointers in his 23 points for the game, along with eight assists.

Mikal Bridges scored a personal playoffs-high 27 points, while Deandre Ayton was slightly subdued in the paint, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, in his second game back from his knee hyperextension, was heroic for the Bucks with 42 points including a massive third period but could not inspire his side to victory.

The Greek forward shot at 68.2 per cent from the field, but only hit one from five beyond the arc. He also had 12 rebounds, three blocks and four assists.

But Antetokounmpo lacked support, with Khris Middleton struggling with 11 points shooting at 31.3 per cent from the field. Jrue Holiday managed 17 points but only shot seven from 21 from the field.

The Bucks started strong in the first quarter, scoring 20-0 in the paint and leading by as much as nine points, before Phoenix hit back with a 30-16 second quarter to open up an 11-point half-time lead.

Antetokounmpo scored 20 points in the third quarter to keep Milwaukee in the hunt, trailing by 10 points at the final change. The Greek's 20 was the most in an NBA Finals quarter since Michael Jordan's 22 against the Suns in 1993.

The Bucks got within five points in the last but the Suns always had the answers when challenged, with Booker and Paul knocking down crucial final quarter threes.

Booker was benched late, in order to preserve his body after playing 44 minutes, after Phoenix lost another player Torrey Craig to injury, to join Dario Saric on the sidelines after the Croatian tore his ACL in Game 1.

An uncharacteristically speedy Phoenix Suns performance left a half-fit Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks chasing shadows in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The Suns, who had 98 possessions per game in the regular season (ranking 24th), had 102 possessions on Tuesday as the usually more methodical Chris Paul picked up the pace.

Point guard Paul, 36, was the standout star as he belatedly made his Finals debut, finishing with 32 points and nine rebounds in a 118-105 Phoenix win.

Only Michael Jordan in 1991 had previously tallied 30 or more points and eight or more assists in a first career Finals game.

Even as the Suns attacked apace, Paul's steady hand limited the Western Conference outfit to nine turnovers – of which just two were his – to Milwaukee's 13.

The series is far from over ahead of Thursday's Game 2, but the Bucks need a response and will hope Antetokounmpo, their own elite performer, can provide it.

The 'Greek Freak' recovered from a hyperextended left knee sustained in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals to start the opener in Phoenix and initially impressed.

Antetokounmpo had eight points, five rebounds and two assists in a first quarter in which he played just over eight minutes, but he had only improved to 13 points by the end of the third.

"I wasn't nervous about my knee, I wasn't thinking about my knee," Antetokounmpo said on Wednesday.

"But hopefully, going into Game 2, I can feel more comfortable, more confident of going downhill, making more plays. We'll see. We'll see how it's going to be. Hopefully I can be in a position where I can make more plays."

Although the two-time MVP just about finished with a positive plus/minus, Milwaukee require more from their talisman – especially if the supporting cast continue to fluff their lines.

Khris Middleton had 29 points but five turnovers and just four assists; Jrue Holiday (10 points, eight rebounds, nine assists) was close to one of the most underwhelming triple-doubles in Finals history; Brook Lopez was a defensive liability, his -17 plus/minus a miserable game low.

Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday are on course to become the first trio of team-mates to each average at least 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the same postseason, but none of them reached that mark in Game 1.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Milwaukee Bucks – Jrue Holiday

The Bucks gave up two first-round draft picks and two potential pick swaps to get Holiday. With limited assets left, they need this to work. In Game 1, it did not. The All-Defensive First Team selection has been frustratingly inconsistent and his four steals in Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks were followed by none against the Suns.

As Milwaukee switched on defense, Paul – Holiday's direct opponent at point guard – found joy with 27 points across the second and third quarters combined before the former New Orleans Pelican took matters into his own hands. "I really just saw him being aggressive, so at that point I felt like I wanted to just annoy him, get him off rhythm, make him pass the ball and take tough shots," Holiday said. "That's something we're going to have to make an adjustment to in Game 2."

Phoenix Suns – Deandre Ayton

The Suns have a significant drop-off at center, with Dario Saric tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Game 1, meaning Frank Kaminsky may now have to be trusted with playoff minutes. Fortunately, starter Deandre Ayton has shown himself capable of more than making up the deficit during his time on the floor.

A breakout postseason continued against the Bucks as Ayton finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds for a fourth consecutive double-double. It is tough to see how Milwaukee can live with the Phoenix big man, who shot eight-for-10 from the field and made all of his free throws – indeed, the Suns only missed once from the foul line.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.