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Khris Middleton drained a number of clutch buckets on the way to 40 points.
A foul-plagued Devin Booker was too much for the Bucks to handle, but his backcourt partner in crime, Chris Paul, fell to pieces and the NBA Finals series between Phoenix and Milwaukee is now tied at two games apiece.
Booker scored 42 points, but in the wild final minutes, the Bucks surged ahead, then hung on for a 109-103 victory Wednesday in Game 4, rallying back from a nine-point final-period deficit.
Paul committed his fourth turnover with 30 seconds left, leading to a Khris Middleton fastbreak layup that was the difference-maker. Paul was the goat, scoring just eight points on 4-for-12 shooting, while the Suns couldn’t overcome Booker’s foul trouble.
Middleton became the Bucks’ hero, scoring 40 points — eight in the final two minutes. His go-ahead jumper with 1:20 left put the Bucks in the lead for good.
Coming off his worst playoff performance, Booker put forth an outing for the ages despite being in foul trouble due to the whistle-happy referees. But Booker failed to put the Suns on the cusp of the championship.
The Suns and Bucks will battle again in Game 5 on Saturday when the series switches to The Valley of The Sun.
Booker picked up a bogus fifth foul with 10:40 left on a clean box-out of PJ Tucker. He didn’t come back until 5:30 left, and by then he had lost his mojo.
On a makeup call, soon after Booker returned, he looked to be intentionally fouling Jrue Holiday on a drive, but the referees swallowed the whistle rather than ejecting the Suns superstar. Holiday still got the pass off to Giannis Antetokounmpo for the layup.
For the first time this series, Antetokounmpo looked more passive. He didn’t match his prior two 40-point outings, but finished with 26 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists. Antetokounmpo made the defensive play of the game when he blocked Deandre Ayton’s alley-oop dunk attempt after he had taken a lob from Booker with 1:00 left. The Suns’ center, Ayton, collected 19 rebounds in the bitter defeat.
Booker doubled his total Game 3 point total in the first half of Game 4, bagging 20 points. Booker was held to just 10 (3-for-14 shooting) in Game 3 — the key reason to the Suns’ blowout loss.
And he was just starting. Booker scored 16 points in the third quarter, making all six of his shots despite foul trouble as the Suns grabbed an 85-76 lead after three. He picked up his fourth foul midway through the third and took a seat for three minutes. He had to take another seat early in the fourth.
Booker was on fire in the second quarter, scoring 10 points in the final six minutes of the half in a spectacular frenzy. Booker started the roll with a 3-pointer, then hit two straight lefty floaters. Then he banged in a right-elbow mid-range jumper, showing every part of his arsenal that may soon to be display at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Suns took an early 18-9 lead. Antetokounmpo, for the first time this series, looked passive. He took just one shot in the first nine minutes.
Perhaps all the minutes on his hyperextended knee that once left him “doubtful’’ to play Game 1 had taken its toll. He was coming off two straight 40-plus games but mounted a modest 12 points on 5 of 8 shots in the first half. More facilitator, he registered four assists in the half.
Antetokounmpo made one spectacular downhill rampage, racing down the lane spinning past the whole Suns defensive wall over a layup and the Bucks forged a 52-52 halftime tie. Paul deferred to Booker and scored just two points, two turnovers and four assists.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman