After taking a 2-0 series lead, the Phoenix Suns now find themselves one loss away from letting the NBA title slip.
Back on their home floor, they were locked in from the jump in Game 5, taking a 16-point lead at the end of the first quarter, but let the Bucks back into the contest, marking the first time this postseason they've not won after leading by double digits. They were 13-0 prior to tonight.
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"It was tough. We came out and did what we intended to do, get off to a great start and we let it go," Suns star Devin Booker said postgame. "They stayed resilient and they kept playing through. So, tough loss for us."
Since his 10-point outing in Game 3, Booker has been at his offensive best, leading the Suns with 40 points tonight, becoming the first player in franchise history and seventh in NBA history with 40+ points in consecutive playoff games.
Devin Booker is the first player in Finals history to lose back-to-back games despite scoring 40+ points in both games.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 18, 2021
He's only the 5th player to do that in any playoff series h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/i06vMCbO94
The Suns connected on 55.2 percent from the field and 68.4 percent (13-of-19) from three, becoming the first team in NBA history to lose a playoff game shooting 55 percent and 60 percent from three, per StatMuse. A lot of that was due to Booker's supreme shotmaking on the night as he went 17-of-33 from the field, keeping them in the contest with a string of isolation buckets third quarter.
Devin Booker tough pull-up.. got it.- NBA (@NBA) July 18, 2021
He's 5-5 in the 3Q 😳#NBAFinals on ABC pic.twitter.com/s0YqgNNXSR
"Yeah, the whole third quarter was pretty much that," Booker said of the stagnant offence.
"We were trading basket-for-basket for I think five minutes straight. But we're at our best when we get stops and get out in transition, so that's what we hang - I always say we hang our hat on the defensive end and that's where we have to be better."
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The Bucks seized control of the game over the middle two quarters, outscoring the Suns 79-53 as they forced the Suns into a ton of tough shots with their increased defensive pressure.
"Yeah, it definitely did," Chris Paul said of the stagnant offensive stretches, highlighting the second quarter, where they only managed three assists.
"Especially in that second quarter when I was out there and we talk about it all season long, we have been a ball-movement team and sometimes the switching can cause you to do that. We exploit it at times and sometimes we don't. We'll go back and look at the film and see what we could have did better."
They say a series doesn't start till a home team loses and now the Bucks are in control. Teams up 3-2 in the Finals have gone on to win 81 percent of the time (38-9) and the Suns, who haven't trailed in the postseason since the first round against the Lakers, now find themselves up against it with their season on the line.
"We knew this wasn't going to be easy. We didn't expect it to be. It's hard. Coach [Monty Williams] said it all year long, 'Everything we want is on the other side of hard,' and it don't get no harder than this. So, we got to regroup, learn from this game, but it's over. We got to get ready for Game 6."
The series shifts back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Tuesday, July 20, with tip-off scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET.
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