Suns win Game 2 of NBA Finals; Giannis’ 42 points not enough for Milwaukee

Booker, Bridges, and the Suns cancelled out a superb performance from the Bucks’ superstar

Daniel Moreno, Reporter

Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t get enough help from his teammates in order to overcome another solid team effort from the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the 2021 NBA Finals.

Despite scoring 42 points and hauling in 12 rebounds, Antetokoumpo’s supporting cast couldn’t keep up with the high-octane Suns offense in an eventual 118-108 defeat.

Phoenix leads the series 2-0, and will claim a first-ever NBA title with two more victories.

The Bucks began the game with back-to-back buckets before a Jae Crowder three-pointer brought the Phoenix Suns Arena crowd to life. It was the first of 20 three-pointers the Suns would hit in Game 2.

Suns small forward Mikal Bridges helped trim the Bucks’ early lead with two early triples. Buoyed by another raucous home crowd, he finished with 27 points.

“(The crowds have been) unbelievable,” Bridges told ESPN’S Scott Van Pelt after the game. “I feel like we have the best fans. It makes it more exciting coming out here to play every night.”

Milwaukee’s defense forced the Suns to score from the perimeter, and Phoenix finished the first quarter with no points in the paint compared to the Bucks’ 20 points. The home shot 46 percent from three-point range in the first half alone, compared to 25 percent shooting for the visiting Bucks. Bridges and Crowder each hit three three-pointers, while Devin Booker and Cameron Johnson had two apiece.

The Suns soon overturned their deficit and led 56-45 at halftime.

In contrast to the regular season, Booker caught fire in the third quarter as the Bucks started to gain on the lead that the Suns had created.

“Our team all season long has been, ‘you put the work in, you live with the results,'” Suns point guard Chris Paul said postgame. “With (Booker), I expect (the ball) to go in. I get mad when he doesn’t shoot.”

Booker continued his torrid scoring pace with a barrage of three-pointers to start the fourth, scoring 31 points overall and playing a total of 44 minutes.

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo did everything he could to keep the Eastern Conference champion Bucks in the game. The two-time MVP scored 20 points in the third quarter alone — the most points in an NBA Finals quarter since Michael Jordan scored 22 in a quarter against the Suns in the 1993 Finals.

“When I’m out there, it’s not about (my knee injury) anymore,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m trying to play, I’m trying to help my team win in any way possible.

“We’ve been here before (trailing 2-0 in a series), we know what the deal is. Just gotta be aggressive, keep enjoying playing together, keep enjoying playing basketball.”

The Bucks fought hard throughout the second half, but Antetokounmpo’s All-Star sidekicks Khris Middleton (11 points) and Jrue Holiday (17 points) struggled to make enough plays both offensively and defensively to slow the Suns down.

The Bucks cut it to a two-possession game in the fourth quarter, but with only 1:21 left in the fourth, Bridges converted two free throws to push the lead back to double digits — and that’s where it would stay.

“We need that (Bridges’ offensive production),” Booker said in a separate interview after the final buzzer. “It takes a lot of pressure off of everybody.”

The one-two punch from Booker’s 31 points and Bridges’ 27 would prove insurmountable for the Bucks on Thursday. But they will get a chance to climb back into the series on Sunday, when the Finals shift to Milwaukee for the first time since 1974.