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Bob's Corner: Ready for Game 5? Here's #4

BOB'S CORNER: US correspondent Bob Craven is settling in (like the rest of us) for Game 5 of the NBA Championship Series between Phoenix Suns and Miwaukee Bucks, the best-of-five battle tied 2-2. But first let's revisit Game 4 where the Bucks had past champs Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Oscar Robertson cheering them from the stands.

AT home in Milwaukee, and in the first really tight game of the championship, the Bucks tied the series 2-2 with a 109-103 win. 

The first quarter was pretty ragged and finished with the Phoenix Suns leading by 3. 

Play and scoring picked up in the second quarter and the half ended tied at 52. Devin Booker of the Suns was mostly unstoppable — until he ended up stopping himself with foul trouble. 

This caused him to miss big chunks of the third period, although he did have a late flurry of points to give Phoenix a six-point lead after three quarters.

However, he picked up his fifth foul barely a minute into the final period and was forced to sit for half the quarter.

The Suns definitely missed him as they struggled on offence with him watching on the sidelines.  This allowed the Bucks to catch up to the point where it was a two-point game with 2 ½ minutes left and it pretty much stayed that way for the next 90 seconds.

Then came “The Play” that may have saved the game and possibly the series for the Bucks. 

The press is already calling it one of the great plays in NBA finals history and a defining moment for the Bucks do-everything star, Giannis Antetokounmpo who, amazingly, is only 26 but in his eighth year in the league. 

With a little over a minute remaining in the game and with the Bucks up 101-99, Phoenix was on offence and Devin Booker had the ball. 

From the top of the key, he drove down the key’s right side. He had half a step on his defender and Antetokounmpo dropped off Phoenix centre Deandre Ayton to help out and shadow Booker. 

Both Booker and Ayton realised this and, as Ayton dove toward the rim, Booker tossed up a high lob.

Antetokounmpo reacted back toward the basket as the 210cm and 116kg Ayton jumped and caught the ball at the top of the left side of the square in preparation for the tying jam. 

Antetokounmpo reacted with him and made a perfect block on the attempted dunk, which led to a break for the Bucks going the other way. 

After a couple of buckets and some free throws, the Bucks ran it out to win by six, having outscored the Suns 33-21 in the fourth. 

Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, both stars from the Bucks’ only previous NBA title-winning team in 1971, watched the game seated next to each other, and definitely were loving the result.

Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 40 points, 6 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals, with 10 of those points coming consecutively down the stretch. 

Antetokounmpo didn’t score his usual 40, but he did manage 26 points, 14 boards, 8 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, including that last one which will be remembered in Milwaukee for a very long time. 

Brooke Lopez scored 14 in only 19 minutes, Jrue Holiday had a line of 13-7-7, but was only 5-of-20 from the floor, including 0-of-5 from behind the arc.

However, he played very tough defence on superstar Chris Paul, who struggled the entire game.  Pat Connaughton added 11 points and 9 rebounds off the bench.

For the Suns, Booker was the main threat, scoring 42 points. Chris Paul added 10 points, 4 boards and 7 assists while being dogged by Holiday’s defense. 

Jae Crowder added a nice all-round game with 15-8-3 and added 3 steals and 3 blocks.  Big man Ayton was very quiet on offence, scoring only 6 points, but he contributed 17 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks.

Game 5 will be this Saturday evening in Phoenix.

Jul 17

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