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Bucks one win from history

From US Correspondent BOB CRAVEN

MILWAUKEE Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo now has made two of the biggest end-game plays in NBA Finals history, steering his team to a 3-2 Championship Series lead in Phoenix today, winning 123-119, with Game 6 back at home.

With the best-of-seven Finals tied at 2-2, it was now down to the best 2-of-3 for the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks, Game 5 in Phoenix and the Suns needing the win to keep their home court advantage in the series.

Both coaches were going with an eight-man rotation, their main guys playing a lot of minutes, barring injury or foul trouble. 

Phoenix jumped out to a big lead and was ahead by 16 at the end of the first quarter. Devin Booker continued to lead the Suns but for the Bucks, Antetokounmpo started slowly.

Fortunately, Jrue Holiday recovered from a very poor shooting night in the previous game and, with Antetokounmpo’s slow start, managed to keep the Bucks within shouting distance.

For the third time in the five games, the Bucks blew out the Suns in the middle two quarters, this time by 79-54, and even flirted with a finals all-time record shooting percentage by going 32-for-45 from the floor in those middle quarters.

Antetokounmpo came alive and helped the Bucks to a 3-point halftime lead, the Bucks' offensive onslaught continuing in the third quarter as they took a 100-90 lead into the final period.

Phoenix, at home, was not about to lie down and die, and only was down by a single point and in possession with 16 seconds left in regulation. 

Everybody knew who Phoenix was going to call on to bail it out (Hint: It was not Ghostbusters).

Booker drove into the middle looking for a shot and the lead, but Jrue Holiday with his tough defence (again) on Booker, wrestled the ball away from him.

Seeing the steal, Antetokounmpo raced down the right side and Holiday threw the alley-oop lob pass to him — slam and a plus-one. 

He missed the free throw, but the Bucks snared the offensive board and Khris Middleton ended the scoring - and the game - by hitting one of two from the charity stripe.

That makes two games in a row the Bucks snatched a victory near the end of a game with incredible defensive plays. In Game 4 it was Antetokounmpo’s amazing block of Deandre Ayton’s catch-and-jam.

Now up 3-2, Milwaukee can close out the series next Tuesday night at home in Milwaukee.

With this win, the Bucks become the first to win on the road in the series. If they win it all Tuesday, it will be their second comeback from a 0-2 deficit this postseason, and only the fifth time in NBA history a team has won the title after starting out 0-2 in the Finals.

Despite his quiet opening, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with a line of 32-9-6, Khris Middleton added 29-7-5, and Jrue Holiday recovered nicely from a poor offensive night in the previous game by adding 27 points, 4 boards, 13 assists, 3 steals and a block.

His scoring in the first half kept the Bucks in the game. 

For the second match in a row, Pat Connaughton gave the Bucks good minutes off the bench and had 14 points and 6 boards.

Phoenix was led again by its all-everything guard, Devin Booker, with 40 points, 4 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block. 

Point guard Chris Paul added 21 points and 11 assists and big man Deandre Ayton contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds. 

Off the Phoenix bench, Mikal Bridges had 13 points, 4 boards and 2 steals, and Jae Crowder added a line of 10-5-3, plus 2 steals.

ONE TO GO: Jrue Holiday heading for home with a 3-2 series lead.

Jul 18

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.