The Milwaukee Bucks moved to the brink of securing the 2021 NBA title after squeezing out an impressive Game 5 win over the Phoneix Suns. Throughout the series, the storyline has remained focused on Chris Paul in his first NBA Finals. Paul has drawn attention again, but this time for taking a shot at Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Suns fall short in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Bucks
After dropping the previous two contests, the Suns hosted the Bucks at home for Game 5 on Saturday night with an opportunity to move a win away from securing the first NBA title in franchise history.
Phoenix raced out to a 16-point lead after the first quarter, but Milwaukee turned the tide in the middle two periods behind a 79-53 scoring edge after making 32 of 45 shot attempts. The Bucks possessed a double-digit lead throughout the second half. However, the Suns cut the deficit to one point after a layup from Paul with 56 seconds left in regulation.
Phoenix held an opportunity to take the lead with under 30 seconds left, but Jrue Holiday stole the ball from Devin Booker, leading to an alley-oop dunk in transition from Antetokounmpo to seal the win. Milwaukee guided forward behind a strong collective effort with Antetokounmpo, Holiday, and Khris Middleton, each scoring at least 25 points on better than 50% shooting from the floor.
Booker nearly pushed the Suns back behind a 40-point performance while Paul tallied a double-double with 21 points and 11 assists. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Booker is the first player in NBA Finals history to lose back-to-back games despite recording at least 40 points in each contest.
The loss sent Phoenix to the brink of elimination, leading Paul to take a subtle shot at the two-time league MVP.
Chris Paul fires a sneaky shot at Giannis Antetokounmpo: ‘Everybody is anticipating him to miss, even him’
The crushing Game 5 loss put the Suns on the brink of elimination.
The contest featured several different influential factors that could have changed the result. One beneficial factor for Phoenix remains Giannis Antetokounmpo’s continued struggles at the free-throw line as he hit four of 11 attempts in Saturday’s game. However, a few missed attempts late in the contest saw the Bucks grab the rebound for second-chance opportunities.
After the loss, Paul delivered a subtle shot at Antetokounmpo’s confidence in his free-throw shooting.
“Everybody is anticipating him to miss, even him,” Paul said via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
The two-time league MVP’s struggles at the free-throw line are a prominent issue. Antetokounmpo is currently shooting 55.6% in this year’s playoffs, including 56.5% in the NBA Finals. Although it hasn’t altered his approach to the game, it’s something he struggles to find consistency with.
Paul is voicing a sentiment many of the Suns’ players presumably feel privately as Antetokounmpo hasn’t improved. Outside of hitting 13 of 17 (76.5%) attempts in Game 3, he’s shot below 62% in every other contest. Ultimately, it may just be the star point guard attempting to get into Antetokounmpo’s head ahead of Tuesday’s pivotal contest.
Phoenix sits in a tough position for Game 6
Despite Antetokounmpo’s free-throw-line shortcomings, the Bucks are a win away from securing their first NBA title in 50 years.
The Suns need a strong effort led by Paul and Booker as late-game miscues have led to crushing losses. Meanwhile, Milwaukee is finding its groove behind its big three of Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Holiday.
Phoenix doesn’t hold an answer for the 26-year-old, who is averaging 32.2 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 5.6 assists on 60.5% shooting from the floor. If the Suns hope to have any chance of forcing an all-or-nothing Game 7, it will require their star backcourt to string together its best performance of the playoffs.