A historic third quarter from Giannis Antetokounmpo was not enough to push the Milwaukee Bucks past the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Chris Paul and Devin Booker led the way for Phoenix, following strong performances in Game 1.
NBA Finals – Game 2 Recap
The Bucks jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter. Jrue Holiday was aggressive offensively but struggled with his shot. Phoenix started off slowly, finally finding their range halfway into the period. Milwaukee didn’t play great defense in the first but they did keep the Suns from getting to the foul line early on. This was a much-needed adjustment as free throws were a big factor in Game 1. Despite eight first-quarter threes from the Suns, the Bucks took a three-point lead into the second quarter.
In the second, the Suns took their turn at a run. Mikal Bridges paced the Suns’ efforts, scoring seven of his 27 points in the period. It was a balanced attack from Phoenix. Seven Suns scored out of the eight that saw minutes in the quarter. The Bucks went ice cold at the wrong time, failing to keep up with their opponents’ offense. Khris Middleton and Holiday struggled mightily. The pair shot a combined 0-10 in the second. As a team, Milwaukee shot 6-25 from the floor and was outscored by Phoenix 30-14. The Suns took an 11 point lead into halftime.
Antetokounmpo looked to take over the game in the third quarter. The two-time MVP attacked the rim relentlessly, frequently drawing fouls in the process. Milwaukee’s main man got to the charity stripe 14 times in the period. He made nine of these attempts, but appeared to be affected by the home crowd’s ten-second chants. Antetokounmpo made up for this with an efficient performance from the floor. He shot 83% for the quarter and racked up 20 points. This effort was the first time any one player has scored 20 or more points in a quarter since Michael Jordan scored 22 in 1993.
Phoenix firmly held onto their lead behind their own stars’ combined efforts. Booker and Paul had 22 points between them in the third. Milwaukee outscored the home team 33-32, but still entered the final quarter trailing by double digits.
The hard-fought fourth quarter saw the teams trading baskets for the most part. Antetokounmpo scored 10 more points and Holiday seemed to break out of his slump a bit. Middleton’s struggles continued in the final period. Bucks fans will be hoping to see him return to his Eastern Conference Finals form in Game 3.
Booker was clutch in closing out the Bucks. He hit back-to-back threes down the stretch and three total in the period. Bridges was big as well. His 10 points led the team that quarter and he hit all eight of his late-game free throw attempts. Paul shot poorly in the fourth, but ran the offense well and contributed four assists. The two teams battled until the end. The Bucks simply could not get the stops needed late in the game in order to overcome the Suns and take back the home-court advantage.
NBA Finals Game 2 – Top Performers
Antetokounmpo’s historic 42-point night will be dampened by his team’s defeat. It should not be forgotten by NBA fans any time soon. His 20-point third quarter surpassed the 19-point efforts of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the highest-scoring quarter by one player in the last 25 seasons. He will need his supporting staff to step up big time if the Bucks are going to get back into this series. Holiday and Middleton played incredibly well while Antetokounmpo was out with injury. The team needs more from this duo going forward. Pat Connaughton had a solid night off the bench with 14 points.
Booker and Paul proved that Game 1 was no fluke. Both players followed their stellar Finals debuts with another impressive performance. Paul had 23 points and eight assists. He did turn the ball over six times, so he’ll be looking to clean up that aspect of his game when the series picks back up in Milwaukee. Booker had 31 points and six assists. He shot 7-12 from beyond the arc and is making an early case for Finals MVP. All five starters scored in double figures for Phoenix in Game 2. Bridges’ 27 points was a huge lift to the team. He kept pace with Antetokounmpo offensively in the first half and drained big free throws late in the game. The Suns survived a slow night from big man Deandre Ayton. Expect him to bounce back in Game 3.
The Bucks will look to close the gap in this series, hosting Phoenix for Game 3 on July 11 at 8 p.m. ET.
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