Do We Have a Series? The Bucks Blistered the Suns Plus 4 More Observations From Game 3

The Bucks looked like a different team in Fiserv Forum, where they improved to 8-1 this postseason, after two subpar performances in Phoenix.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Game 3 Flex NBA Finals 2021

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 11: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrates during the second half in Game Three of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum on July 11, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Game 3 Flex NBA Finals 2021

Do we have a series?

Maybe we do. Then again, maybe we don’t. Who knows after Game 3 turned out to be the complete opposite of what we saw through the first two games of the NBA Finals. But after the Bucks blistered the Suns, closing out the third quarter of Sunday’s showdown with 16-straight points during a 30-9 run that ultimately led to a laugher of a 120-100 victory, there’s certainly a lot more hope this series, with Phoenix now leading 2-1, will be way more competitive than it was shaping up to be a few nights ago.

Thanks to another huge game from Giannis Antetokounmpo—who actually had some help for a change—and some cold shooting from the Suns, the Bucks looked infinitely more competent and actually up for the challenge of doing something only four teams have managed to pull off in NBA Finals history. 

Erasing a 2-0 series lead has only happened twice in the past 21 years, but one game after Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were ridiculed for wasting an epic performance from Antetokounmpo there’s reason to believe maybe it could happen if Milwaukee repeats this performance three more times. Middleton and Holiday complemented the Greek Freak’s huge numbers nicely—Antetokounmpo finished with 41 points, hitting 13 of his 17 free throw attempts—as they combined for 39 points. The trio actually scored or assisted on all 60 of the Bucks’ first-half points while the rest of the team fed off the energy of the Milwaukee crowd that was amped to host its first Finals games since 1974.

Meanwhile, after out-playing and out-executing the Bucks through the first two games, the Suns just couldn’t muster much, highlighted by the struggles of Devin Booker who only managed 10 points. The hot shooting that sustained the Suns in Game 2, where they hit half of their 40 attempts from beyond the arc, was non-existent. Phoenix finished 9-of-31 from downtown and all the shots that fell like raindrops in the first two games of the series failed to make the trip to Milwaukee. Chris Paul led the way for Phoenix with 19 points while Deandre Ayton, who rarely deals with foul trouble but found himself struggling to stay on the court thanks to too many whistles, added 18 in 24 minutes of play. 

While you can argue the loss for Phoenix was due to an off-night for two of its three stars despite five Suns players finishing in double figures, give the Bucks credit for looking like a different team in Fiserv Forum where they improved to 8-1 this postseason. Antetokounmpo’s second straight 40-point performance was absolutely the catalyst, but there were many reasons why this one wasn’t close. The Bucks’ ball movement was crisp, the shooting was proficient, the hustle was turbocharged, and the defense deserved plenty of credit for holding down a Suns team that came in hot. It was a total team effort for Milwaukee and the vibe around these Finals feels way different than it did three nights ago.  

“We got better from Game 1 to Game 2. And now we got better from Game 2 to Game 3,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’ve got to keep building. Keep trusting one another. Keep trusting winning habits. Keep making winning plays. Keep competing hard and keep doing it together. But we got better.”​​​​​​​

Game 4 tips Wednesday from Milwaukee at 9 p.m. ET. Here are four more observations from Game 3.

Dunk of the Series

Cam Johnson PJ Tucker Game 3 NBA Finals 2021

We’re only three games into this series, but it’s going to be tough to top Cam Johnson’s flush over PJ Tucker in the third quarter Sunday as the dunk of the Finals.


— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) July 12, 2021

Salute to Johnson, who finished with 14 points off the bench, for the audacity to rise over Tucker for that epic slam in the third quarter. Milwaukee challenged the blocking foul called on the floor, but it was ultimately unsuccessful. If the officials overturned it Twitter would’ve called for Adam Silver to shut down the NBA.

Historically speaking, a Milwaukee comeback isn’t in the cards. Only four teams that have dropped the first two games of the Finals have climbed back to claim the crown—the most recent being the 2016 Cavaliers. Only 30 teams in NBA Playoffs history have managed to overcome a 2-0 series hole and only one—this year’s Clippers squad—managed to do it twice in one postseason. The Bucks overcame a 2-0 deficit against the Nets in the Eastern Conference semis.

Phoenix Passion Runs Deep

Steve Nash Nets Suns 2021

After rocking a resplendent double-breasted suit for Games 1 and 2 (in black and white, respectively), maybe Devin Booker should’ve stuck with the formal wear. He went super casual for Game 3 fit and he struggled mightily from the field, finishing with 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting from the field, including 1-o-f-7 from beyond the arc.

Book and CP3 are READY for Game 3 😤

— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2021

Booker sat most of the second half after being ineffective. He only ended up playing 29 minutes and his 10 points were by far the fewest he’s scored this postseason. His previous low was 15 in a Game 3 loss to the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals. Booker entered Sunday averaging 27.2 PPG this postseason over 40.7 MPG. The Suns clearly can’t afford more off-nights from their sharpshooter. 

“This is one of those games that you typically, in NBA speak, say flush it,” Williams said. “But you can’t in the Finals. We got to watch the film and learn and get back to playing our kind of basketball consistently. We saw it in spurts. Just didn’t have enough of it tonight to hold them off and maintain any level of consistency. Usually when we play with a great deal of force and edge, the consistency follows. We just weren’t consistent with that tonight.”

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