NBA Finals: Suns protect home court for 2-0 lead, halfway through title

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at Jul 09 2021 11:37 AM | Updated as of Jul 09 2021 01:29 PM

NBA Finals: Suns protect home court for 2-0 lead, halfway through title 1
Devin Booker and the Suns are 2 games away from winning their maiden NBA title. Joe Camporeale, USA Today Sports/Reuters

Devin Booker hit seven of his team's postseason-franchise-record 20 3-pointers while scoring 31 points and Phoenix Suns went up 2-0 in the NBA Finals with a 118-108 victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

The Suns overcame a playoff-career-best 42-point performance by Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Seeking the first NBA title in their 53-year history, the Suns will hit the road as the scene shifts to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Thursday (Manila time). 

"It's a 0-0 mindset for us," Booker said. "It's a Game-7 mentality for us. Every game is a game seven for us. It gets rowdy up there but we'll be ready for it."

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En route to the eighth win in 10 home games this postseason, the Suns grabbed an 11-point halftime lead and kept the Bucks at arm's length throughout the final 24 minutes. 

Milwaukee got as close as 93-88 after a Brook Lopez layup with 8:45 to play, but Deandre Ayton turned a Chris Paul assist into a layup and Booker bombed in a 3-pointer to quickly extend the margin into double figures again. 

Booker connected on another 3-pointer to make it a 13-point lead, but the Bucks wouldn't go away. Jrue Holiday and Antetokounmpo did all the scoring in a 7-0 burst that got Milwaukee back within 103-97 with 5:15 to go, but this time it was Paul who hit the rally-killing hoop, a 3-pointer that pushed the advantage back to nine.

The Bucks, who also fell behind the Brooklyn Nets 2-0 on the road before winning the Eastern Conference semifinal series in seven games, never got closer than eight in the final four minutes.

Booker's 31 points came on 12-for-25 shooting overall and 7-for-12 from 3-point range.

With Paul, Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder hitting three 3-pointers apiece, the Suns went 20-for-40 from beyond the arc, outscoring the Bucks 60-27 from deep. 

"We've got to just keep making it tough on them," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "We've got to look at the film and keep working to get better against this group."

Bridges finished with 27 points and Paul 23 for the Suns, who overcame 18 Bucks offensive rebounds and 23-14 disparity in free-throw attempts to gain their third straight 2-0 advantage in the postseason. 

"We need that," Booker said of Bridges' performance. "It takes a lot of pressure off everybody once we get it going on the offensive end."

Crowder (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Ayton (10 points, 11 rebounds) made it five Suns starters with double-figure points. 

Antetokounmpo, who also found time for a game-high 12 rebounds, scored 20 of his 42 points in the third quarter and 30 in the second half. It wasn't enough for a team that was outshot 48.9 percent to 45.2 percent from the field.

The 42 points were one more than his previous postseason-high, which he set in the first round in 2019 at Detroit.

Holiday totaled 17 points, Pat Connaughton 14 and Khris Middleton 11 for the Bucks, who have gone 7-1 at home in the postseason.

Seeking to avoid the type of start that saw them never hold a lead over the final 40 minutes of Game 1, the Bucks led by as many as nine in the first half Thursday before eventually getting buried in a barrage of Suns 3-pointers. 

Phoenix had 11 in the first half -- matching its number of 2-pointers. Crowder and Bridges each hit a trey a 15-4 run over the final 4:39 of the second quarter that turned a 41-all tie into a 56-45 advantage.


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