A rematch of the Finals went much like last season — the Bucks won the final game.
Well, for now, anyway.
Khris Middleton erupted for 44 points and the Bucks held off the Suns for a 132-122 home victory on Sunday, evening the season series at a game apiece.
If they meet again this year, it will indeed have to be in the Finals. And this particular intense afternoon made it seem like it would be as good as last time.
“We love being in those type of games,” said Buck guard Jrue Holiday, who added 44 points. “They’re a really good team. We kind of know what it takes, especially in moments like that, what it takes to win games.”
The Bucks (40-25) have been picking up steam lately, as they have now won four in a row. That includes three wins in the past five days.
Best of all for Milwaukee, the opponents in those games have been contenders. It started with the Heat on Wednesday, followed by the Bulls on Friday, followed by the Suns.
“We’re just trying to lock in a little bit better,” Middleton said. “We’ve spoken on it multiple times in the past where we’ve had these lapses and what not. We’re trying to be dialed in, trying to be your best self for 48 minutes out there.”
All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds. He fouled out, giving the Suns (51-13) a little bit of hope.
But it was not to be for the team with the league’s best record — which was missing its starting backcourt of Devin Booker and Chris Paul. Both All-Stars were out with illness or injury.
Deandre Ayton scored 30 to lead the Suns, and Cameron Payne had 23.
“That was a big statement game for us. … We really wanted to get that win,” said Suns forward Jae Crowder, who finished with19 points. “I’m really disappointed with how we finished the game.”
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