• AFP-JIJI

  • SHARE

Devin Booker scored 31 points and Chris Paul added 23 on Thursday to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 118-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals on Wednesday.

Phoenix’s Mikal Bridges scored a playoff career-high 27 points for the Suns, who seized a 2-0 edge in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Milwaukee for the next two games on Sunday and Wednesday.

“It’s a 0-0 mindset for us,” Booker said. “It’s a Game 7 mentality for us. Every game is a Game 7 for us. It gets rowdy up there but we’ll be ready for it.”

Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 42 points and added 12 rebounds, but the Bucks could not give the 26-year-old Greek forward enough support as they went down 2-0, the same deficit they overcame to beat the Brooklyn Nets in the second round.

“We’ve just got to keep staying aggressive,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’ve been here before. We know what the deal is. We’ve got to enjoy the game. It’s hard when we’re losing but we’re going to figure it out.”

The Suns are seeking their first NBA crown while the Bucks are trying to capture their first title in 50 years.

“We’ve got to just keep making it tough on them,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’ve got to look at the film and keep working to get better against this group.”

Booker delivered his eighth 30-point game of the playoffs while Paul, in his first NBA Finals at age 36, added eight assists.

Deandre Ayton added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns while Jae Crowder had 11 points and 10 rebounds. The surprise effort came from Bridges, who went 8-for-15 from the floor and 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

“We need that,” Booker said. “It takes a lot of pressure off everybody once we get it going on the offensive end.”

Phoenix outscored Milwaukee 15-4 over the final 4:40 of the second quarter to seize a 56-45 lead at the half.

The Suns, who have yet to lose in the postseason after building a 10-point lead, held the Bucks to only 35.8% shooting in the first half.

Antetokounmpo scored 20 points in the third quarter, the most by any player in an NBA Finals quarter in 25 years, but the Suns still led 88-78 entering the fourth .

The Bucks closed within 93-88, but an Ayton layup and consecutive 3-pointers by Booker gave the Suns a 101-88 edge with 7:18 remaining.

Milwaukee answered with a 7-0 run — with Jrue Holiday scoring five of his 17 during that spurt — to pull within 103-97 with 5:15 to play.

Paul responded with a 3-pointer and assisted on a Bridges layup to put the Suns ahead 108-97. The Bucks never got closer than eight points after that.

“We had a 10-point lead and we just wanted to hold that,” Booker said. “We knew they would come out desperate. We defended well and made some shots at the end.”

The Suns, who went 20-for-40 from 3-point range, are two wins from their first title, but aren’t thinking about that yet.

“We have to approach every game with a level of desperation,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We can’t look at the series numbers. Our mentality is play every game as if we’re coming off a loss.”

The Suns lost swingman Torrey Craig to a right leg injury at the end of the third quarter just a day after losing Croatian forward Dario Saric with a torn right knee ligament.

Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP who missed two games with a hyperextended left knee before returning in Game 1, gave Bucks fans a scare when he fell to the court in the second and third quarters.

“Just a cramp,” he said. “I don’t think it was connected to my knee.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)