The Phoenix Suns held a 2-1 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks going into Game 4 of the NBA Finals. That said, the Bucks needed a victory in Game 4 to keep their title hopes alive.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns are tied at 2-2. Here are the biggest takeaways from Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Finals.
And in one of the best games of this NBA Finals series, the Bucks outlasted the Suns in a 109-103 victory. With this series now tied at two games apiece, here’s a look at the biggest takeaways from Game 4.
4. Bucks defense making life difficult for Chris Paul
In the first two games of the 2021 NBA Finals, Chris Paul scored 55 points. But in the last two games, his production has dipped somewhat.
Following a respectable 19-point outing in Game 3, Paul had a quiet night in Game 4, scoring 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting from the field. Another stat worth discussing is that Paul has committed nine turnovers in the last two games and he is averaging over four turnovers per contest in this series.
To put this stat into perspective, Paul never averaged more than two turnovers in any series during the Suns postseason run. Sure, Paul isn’t going to put up 30 points per night. On the other hand, the Suns are nearly unbeatable when he and Deven Booker score at least 50 points.
Given that fact, look for Paul to have a bounce-back performance of his own in Game 5.
3. Suns waste a solid effort from Devin Booker
There is no easy way to say it, Devin Booker had a forgettable outing in Game 3. In that contest, he scored 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting from the floor. This was his worst outing of the postseason.
But as is the case with great players, Booker responded in a big way in Game 4. He scored a game-high of 42 points on 17-for-28 shooting from the field.
Booker’s outing included an 18-point outburst in the third quarter in which he made all seven of his field-goal attempts. Unfortunately, because of foul trouble, Booker spent key moments on the bench in the third and fourth quarters.
If not for that, perhaps the Suns’ star guard puts up 50 points and possibly changes the outcome of the game. That may be debatable. What is a certainty is the Suns will need a win in Game 5 to avoid facing elimination for the first time during these playoffs.
2. Suns still have no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo in this NBA Finals series
To say Giannis Antetokounmpo has had his way against the Suns would be an understatement. He tallied at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in Games 2 and 3. The Suns’ defense played somewhat better against him in Game 4, as the two-time MVP finished with 26 points to go along with 14 rebounds and eight assists.
Not only did Antetokounmpo make the right reads with the Suns determined to keep him out of the paint, but he also had this huge block during the waning moments of the game with the Bucks leading by a slim two-point margin.
"This is one of the great recovery plays you'll ever see."
— NBA (@NBA) July 15, 2021
On the heels of another solid outing, Antetokounmpo has established himself as the best player in the series, thus far. And if he continues to get contributions from his supporting cast, the Bucks could be on the verge of claiming the team’s first title since 1971.
1. Khris Middelton delivers on cue for the Bucks
While Booker put together a noteworthy performance, he wasn’t the only player to have a solid outing in Game 4.
Khris Middleton finished the evening with 40 points, six rebounds and four assists Throw in a pair of steals for good measure as well.
This was one of Middleton’s best performances in the NBA Finals. And he took over when his team needed him the most. With the Bucks trailing by two points with just over two minutes left in the game, Middleton took over. He scored 14 points in the final frame, including 10 of the Bucks’ final 12 points. And he also knocked down four key free throws to help the Bucks preserve the win.
“Khris has no fear and he never has,” Jrue Holiday said after Game 4, via CBS Sports. “Being one of the guys who has guarded him in my career, knowing what he’s done, hitting big shots, making big plays, he’s never been afraid of the moment. So putting him in this situation is kind of perfect.”
Needless to say, the Suns could have their hands going forward if Middleton can begin stringing performances like this in consecutive outings.