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24 Thoughts on Game 5 of 2021 NBA Finals

Instant observations and real-time tweets from Game 5 of The Finals as it happened in Phoenix on Saturday night.

Brian Martin, for

Giannis Antetokounmpo (32), Khris Middleton (29) and Jrue Holiday (27) combined for 88 points on 57.6% (38-66) shooting in Game 5.

After both teams held serve at home through the first four games, the 2021 NBA Finals returns to Phoenix tied at 2-2 for an absolutely crucial Game 5. This is the 30th NBA Finals that has been tied at 2-2 through four games; the team that wins Game 5 has gone on to win the series 72.4% of the time (21-8). Will the Suns protect home court again, or will the Bucks bring the momentum from winning the past two games in Milwaukee and steal a game on the road?

1 — LeBron James is in the house (now known as the Footprint Center) for Game 5. He’s got the No. 1 movie in the country with Space Jam: A New Legacy having a huge opening weekend, and now a courtside seat to support Chris Paul at his first NBA Finals.

2 — The Bucks have four turnovers in the first 4 1/2 minutes; they had five for all of Game 4. Last turnover leads to a Jae Crowder fast-break dunk and a five-point lead (14-9) for the Suns. Timeout Bucks. Crowder with eight early points — he hit first two 3-pointers and this dunk.

3 — Suns come out on fire, they’ve now made 10 straight shots and are shooting 83.3% (10-12) in the quarter.

Turnover by the Bucks, a foul in the backcourt is not heard, so Devin Booker continues on the break and dunk while being fouled by Giannis. Dunk doesn’t count, but it’s incredible nonetheless.

That’s Milwaukee’s fifth turnover of the game with 4:38 remaining in the first quarter, already matching their  entire Game 4 total.

4 — Props to the fan counting the $100 bills as part of the Giannis free throw count chant.

5 — Suns have doubled up the Bucks 32-16 with just under three minutes left in the opening quarter. Phoenix is shooting 80% (12-15, 4-5) from the field and from 3-point range, has made all four free throws. Bucks with six turnovers leading to 11 Suns points.

6 — First quarter comes to an end with Suns leading 37-21 (their biggest lead since Game 1). What a first punch by the Suns back at home. Phoenix is shooting 73.7% (14-19 FGs), has missed only one 3-pointer in six attempts, and made all four free throws.

Booker leads all scores with 11 points (5-9 FG), while Jae Crowder and Deandre Ayton have eight apiece for Phoenix. Giannis with eight points to lead the Bucks, while Game 4 hero Khris Middleton has come out cold (3 points on 1-7 FG).

7 — Bucks open the second quarter with an 11-3 run to cut the Suns lead in half, 40-32, with 9:31 to play and forces a Suns timeout

A corner 3 from Portis cuts the lead to five — all of this run is coming without Giannis on the court.

Bucks run is up to 16-3 to open the second quarter — remember the winner of the second quarter has won every game of this series.

8 — Holiday with 14 points already with over eight minutes to play in the second quarter — he had 13 in all of Game 4. While Game 4 was the Khris Middleton game, could Game 5 be …

Connaughton ties it with his 3rd 3-pointer of the game in as many attempts.

9 — Bobby Portis making a big impact off the bench. first an old-fashioned 3-point play, then his corner 3 off the feed from Giannis (his third assist on a corner 3 so far this game) to give the Bucks the lead with 5:45 to play.

It’s now 29-12 Bucks in the second quarter. What a turnaround!

10 — Bucks going big with lineup of Brook Lopez, Giannis, Portis, Middleton and PJ Tucker.

I went ahead and checked and this was the first time that lineup has shared the court all season.

11 — Pretty good company to join for Giannis and Middleton:

Speaking of good company … Chris Paul is up to six assists on the night to climb to seventh place on the all-time playoff list as he passed a pair of legends: Steve Nash and Larry Bird.

12 — Jrue Holiday is on fire — he’s up to 18 points and seven assists in first half, his 3-pointer with 1:25 to play puts the Bucks back on top 60-59. Holiday has scored 14 of his 18 points in the second quarter.

Bucks have completely flipped the script from the first quarter to the second, and most impressively, they’ve done most of that damage without Giannis’ scoring.

13 — At the half, the Bucks lead 64-61 as they outscore the Suns 43-24 in the second.

Bucks win the second quarter, will the series trend continue to play out?

Game 1: PHX +4 2nd Qtr, PHX +13 Final
Game 2: PHX +14 2nd Qtr, PHX +10 Final
Game 3: MIL +18 2nd Qtr, MIL +20 Final
Game 4: MIL +3 2nd Qtr, MIL +6 Final
Game 5: MIL +19 2nd Qtr, ??? Final

14 — Both teams are shooting the lights out tonight: 60% (33-55 FGs) for the Bucks, 54.5% (30-55) for the Suns early in the third quarter.

15 — Giannis is up to six assists as we near the midpoint of the third quarter; he led all players in Game 4 with eight dimes.

Giannis can still score as well — puts a spin move on Ayton, pulls up for the hook in the lane that drops to give the Bucks a 10-point lead with 5:42 left in the third.

16 — Giannis (20), Middleton (20) and Holiday (23) all at 20-plus points and still more than three minutes left in the quarter. It’s the first time all three have scored 20 in the same game in The Finals, and only the third time this postseason (June 17 vs BKN, May 22 vs MIA).

17 — Jrue Holiday is doing it all for the Bucks as Milwaukee takes a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter.

He’s up to 25 points on 11-15 FGs, 3-5 3Ps to go with 11 assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block. This is his third career playoff game with at least 25 points and 11 assists … and there’s still a quarter to play.

The turnaround in this game is just remarkable.

18 — Devin Booker doing his best to keep the Suns in this. He’s got 33 points on 14-for-26 shooting with 9:55 to play. He’s the only Sun with a positive plus/minus (+6).

19 — Bridges and Paul with back to back 3-pointers to cut the lead to eight points and force a Bucks timeout with 7:48 to play. The 3-point shooting in this game has been unreal. Suns are now 10-16 (62.5%), Bucks are 13-27 (48.1%) from beyond the arc.

20 — Giannis’ layup and-1 with 6:25 to play (he makes the FT) pushes the Bucks’ lead back to 11. Giannis is up to 29 to lead Milwaukee, while Holiday has 27 and Middleton has 22.

The Suns hit another 3-pointer to put it back to eight. Can the Bucks continue to answer and prevent a burst from the Suns that will get this crowd exploding?

21 — CP3 vs. Giannis, Paul’s fadeaway jumper in the lane drops to cut the lead to six. Paul now with 16 points, 10 assists and only one turnover for the game.

After a Giannis free throw, both teams miss on scoring opportunities before Khris Middleton hits a mid-range jumper and is fouled by Jae Crowder for the and-1. He sinks the free throw to push lead back to 10 with 3:20 to play.

22 — Chris Paul and the Suns are not going quietly to a 3-2 deficit. Paul hits another 3 (giving him eight points in the quarter) to cut lead to seven, then after a Bucks turnover, Paul finds Ayton in the lane for a trip to the FT line to cut the lead to five.

Now its Middleton and Booker going back-and-forth. Step back 3 from Middleton is good. Driving layup by Booker is good. Booker strips Middleton on a drive, but Bucks keep the ball, Middleton misses a long 2-pointer and Booker responds with a 3 against a good contest from Jrue Holiday to make it a three-point game with under 90 seconds to play.

23 — Giannis headed to the line for the most clutch free throws of his career. His team up three and just 1:09 from a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals with Game 6 back at home. Can he make it a two possession game?

First one rolls off the rim. Timeout Suns.

Second one rims out. Suns ball!

Paul drives, hits the layup to make it a one-point game with 55 seconds left — it’s up to a 12-3 run by the Suns. Can they pull off a miracle comeback?!

A second straight incredible game in this series!

24 — Holiday misses a floater before the shot clock expires, Suns grab the rebound, down by three and do not use a timeout. Booker drives against Tucker, Giannis steps up to double, Holiday steps down from guarding Paul to triple-team Booker and Holiday reaches in and strips the ball. A fast break for the Bucks and Holiday does not pull the ball out and force the Suns to foul. Instead he finds a streaking Giannis for an alley-oop dunk and-1. What a sequence for the Bucks!!

Bucks up three with 13.5 seconds to play and Giannis back at the free-throw line. He misses again (4-for-11 on the night), but is able to back tap the offensive rebound back to Middleton, who is fouled with 9.8 second left and splits the pair to make it a two possession game.

Suns come out of the timeout with a long 2-point shot by Booker that misses, after a scramble for the rebound, the clock expires as Paul attempts a three that would have not have changed the outcome.

Bucks win 123-119 to take a 3-2 lead back to Milwaukee, with a chance to close it out on their home court on Tuesday night. What a game!