NBA Finals: Monty Williams says Suns must be willing to 'do whatever it takes' to force Game 7 in Phoenix

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CBS Sports 18 July, 2021 - 05:54pm 10 views

Is Game 5 the last game?

End of Game 5 — The Bucks outlast the Suns for a 123-119 victory in Game 5. Milwaukee takes a 3-2 lead in the series and now sets up a chance to close out the series at home. DraftKings NationBucks vs. Suns Game 5 final score: Big 3 for Milwaukee comes through in 123-119 win

The Suns have quickly shifted their mindset after losing 123-119 to the Bucks on Saturday in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

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We're going all in on the NBA Finals with a full breakdown of the Suns and Bucks. USA TODAY

PHOENIX – Once they walked into the locker room, the Phoenix Suns hashed out their shortcomings. How could they not?

The Suns had just experienced a 123-119 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Saturday. After winning the first two games, the Suns suffered a three-game losing streak that came down to a handful of possessions. And now, the Suns face elimination with a potentially decisive Game 6 in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Still, the Suns quickly shifted their mindset from lamenting their circumstances toward embracing it.

“I like it. It’s fun; the tables are turned now,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said. “Now we're the desperate team. We had our chances of being up and trying to finish the job, now we're in the same position that they were in. They're up, and now we got to go get it. That's why it's a little bit more fun.”

That attitude might explain why the Suns have proven to be resilient all season.

They had only lost three consecutive games one other time this season. When they faced a 2-1 first-round series deficit against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Suns then won two of the next three to win the series. After they failed to eliminate the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, the Suns did so in Game 6 in L.A.

“We knew this wasn't going to be easy,” Suns guard Chris Paul said. "We didn't expect it to be. It's hard.”

The Suns face different  circumstances this time. Their other three-game losing streak happened partly because Suns guard Devin Booker missed the latter two games with a hamstring injury. The Suns overcame the Lakers amid improved health of Paul and regressed health of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Suns eliminated the Clippers amid Paul shaking off rust from missing the first two games after testing positive for COVID-19 and Booker playing through a battered nose.

As for the Bucks? Giannis Antetokounmpo has dominated all series. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have elevated their shotmaking and defense as the series has progressed. And Milwaukee has home-court advantage and history on its side.

Past teams have won an NBA title 38 out of 47 times after holding a 3-2 series lead. Past teams have won an NBA title 21 out of 29 times after winning Game 5 following a 2-2 series tie. And yet, the Suns remain confident they can rewrite the history books.

“We just got to win one game to put them back on the plane. That's it,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “And you have to have that determination that you're willing to do whatever it takes to put them back on the plane.”

Will that determination be enough?

Even before the Suns’ latest adversity, Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers texted Williams that “pressure is a privilege.” Williams has reiterated a similar message to his team all season. He recently told his players, “You’re not going to find greatness on a beach; you’re going to find it in the struggle.”

The Suns have often listened to that message. They have rarely squabbled and have become a close-knit team. Williams noted that the team has not held any team-building exercises because of the season-long pandemic restrictions. But the Suns have still stayed close with consistent work in the gym, meal get togethers at hotel and hangouts at the Phoenix houses of Paul and Booker. During those times, the Suns have had extensive conversations about roles, adjustments and schemes.

The Suns also arguably could have swept the Bucks and already hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy if not for a handful of plays.

And during those losses, the Suns pointed to bigger trends that included inconsistency with their defense, rebounding and ball handling.

“If you sulk about it, it's, the blink of an eye the season is going to be over,” Suns guard Mikal Bridges said. “So, we'll learn from it, coach is going to show clips and what we have to do better, but we know what we have to do. But we're ready, man.”

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Milwaukee Bucks' Jrue Holiday seals Game 5 win with clutch steal, alley-oop pass

ESPN 18 July, 2021 - 10:01pm

PHOENIX -- As Suns star Devin Booker drove into the lane inside the final 30 seconds of Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Saturday night, it felt like it was about to be a storybook moment. The Suns were trailing by one, and Booker -- who had already hit 40 points for a second straight game -- looked ready to push Phoenix back into the lead.

But then, out of nowhere, Jrue Holiday appeared.

"I was just trying to score the ball," Booker said. "[Holiday] was behind me. I turned and he was right there."

As Booker spun back toward the middle of the court, Holiday got his hands on the ball, popped it up in the air and caught it.

"I guess I was just in the right place at the right time," Holiday said.

Then, after taking four dribbles and moving into the frontcourt, he lofted a picture-perfect alley-oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim for an emphatic dunk plus a foul.

"The pass was all about trust," Antetokounmpo said. "Obviously, he could have pulled the ball out, let the clock run and get a good shot. But he trusted me, threw the ball out there, and we were able to get a bucket."

And just like that, the Bucks went from being on the ropes to in control of the NBA Finals in a span of less than four seconds. A few moments later, Milwaukee emerged with a 123-119 victory over Phoenix, pushing the Bucks to within one win of their first NBA title in a half-century.

Game 6 is Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum.

"Going home to our fans, going home to Milwaukee is a great opportunity for us," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "But you have to go out and play. It's at this point, you could feel it tonight, the high-level basketball on both sides of it.

"It's going to be the same in Game 6. Both teams are going to come out, expect really, really good basketball. We're going to have to compete defensively and we're going to have to make plays, play together. It's more about that. But to be going home to our fans, Fiserv has been rocking. It's been huge for us, and we're excited about our opportunity in Game 6."

When the Milwaukee Bucks sent a bushel of draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for Holiday in the offseason, he was seen as the missing piece that would finally allow Milwaukee to find the postseason breakthrough it had been waiting for.

Saturday night, that was exactly what Holiday proved to be. He bounced back from a dreadful start to the series offensively with 27 points and 13 assists and continued to be a terror defensively, picking Booker's pocket not only on that play late in the fourth quarter, but also midway through the third, when he buried a 3-pointer on the left wing as part of a Milwaukee run that broke the game open.

It was a complete, two-way performance from Holiday, long considered one of the NBA's best two-way guards, and a validation of Milwaukee's decision to go all-in on him after his predecessor, Eric Bledsoe, had failed in these situations as the Bucks were eliminated in the playoffs as the East's top seed each of the past two seasons.

"I saw it in Portland, when he was in New Orleans and we got swept in the first round," Bucks guard Pat Connaughton said. "Just the way he defends on a nightly basis and the way that he's able to do it in different ways. He's physical, he's quick, he's strong. He's got a lot of things to him. And he's got quick hands.

"First-team All-Defense play. It was a Defensive Player of the Year [play]. It just kind of shows we're built on defense. The last two games, we've had a big defensive stop to kind of push us over the hump, and they have been made by a guy who is first-team All-Defense."

Entering Game 5, however, a Holiday offensive explosion didn't appear to be in the cards. His shooting had been a talking point throughout the series, thanks to him shooting 34.8% through the first four games, including a 4-for-20 performance in Game 4.

Still, Holiday said that isn't anything he'll carry with him into the next game.

"Doesn't really cross my mind," he said. "I feel like at the end of the day, whatever I can do to help my team is most important. I went 4-for-20 the game before and we still won, and I know I can do other things to affect the game. I know when my shot is going and I'm trying to make plays for others, it is definitely an added bonus.

After Milwaukee managed to pull out Game 4, thanks to some incredible heroics from Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton down the stretch, Antetokounmpo said he believed in Holiday and trusted him to make the right plays going forward to lead the Bucks to victories.

Holiday repaid that confidence -- and then some -- with his performance Saturday night.

He opened the game with a midrange jumper that hit nothing but net, a good sign for his confidence. But after a couple of quick baskets, Holiday exited the game with two fouls with 6:42 to go in the first quarter.

At that point, with the Bucks trailing by 5, Jeff Teague checked into the game. The Suns repeatedly targeted him and went on a 21-10 run to take a 16-point lead after one.

But then, with Antetokounmpo on the bench after playing the entire first quarter, Holiday proceeded to take over. As Milwaukee stormed back into the game, outscoring Phoenix 43-24 to take the lead going into halftime, it was Holiday who willed the Bucks back into it. He scored 14 points while going 6-for-7 from the field in the second quarter alone.

"I thought there was a couple stops and he was able to get to some good spots," Budenholzer said. "Brook [Lopez] and Bobby [Portis] screening for him in transition. It starts with our defense. I thought that group played really well defensively. Connaughton hit some big 3s in that stretch.

"They made every shot in the first quarter. We felt like it could balance out."

It did -- and then some -- across the second and third quarters. The Bucks shot 32-for-45 overall and 10-for-17 from 3-point range on their way to outscoring the Suns 79-53, completely flipping the game in their favor, even as Booker was doing his best to match Milwaukee's scoring by himself.

For as good as Holiday was, he wasn't alone. After the home team had won each of the first four games of this series, the Bucks came alive on the road in Game 5 to break that trend. Middleton had 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 41 minutes. Antetokounmpo had another routinely dominant performance, finishing with 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists. And Portis and Connaughton chipped in a combined 23 points and six 3-pointers off the bench.

"It makes everything more balanced and makes life easier for everybody," Middleton said of the teamwide offensive attack. "Knowing that we play together and we have everybody clicking on all cylinders, we're tough to guard.

"Obviously on defense, we can click. We can switch and we know how to have each other's back. But when we are all playing well, we're one of the best teams, for sure."

Even with all of that, however, the Suns didn't go down without a fight. The Bucks led by 10 with 3:25 remaining and eight with 2:23 to go, only for the Suns to then rattle off seven straight points, while Middleton missed a pair of jumpers, Holiday missed another and Antetokounmpo bricked a pair of free throws.

All of that set the Suns up with a chance to win when Booker brought it over half court with 30 seconds to go. Instead, it turned into the moment Holiday proved he was worth everything the Bucks gave up to go get him.

Now, he and the Bucks have to do it one more time to win the title.

"I feel like now, you've got to give it your all," Holiday said. "We're literally coming down to the last game, game or two.

"At this point, there's no excuses."

Kendall Jenner Cheers on Boyfriend Devin Booker During NBA Finals Game

Yahoo Entertainment 18 July, 2021 - 03:55pm

The model supported her man, who she has been dating since June 2020, at his NBA Finals game on Saturday, July 17 in Phoenix, Ariz. The 24-year-old athlete's team faced off against the Milwaukee Bucks and lost in the fifth game of the seven-game series. But even though the Suns didn't go home with a win, Devin was on the winning side of the night with his girlfriend cheering him on.

An eyewitness tells E! News, "Kendall was really engaged in the game."

"She would stand up and cheer every time Devin scored," the source revealed. "It was so cute! She had her hands on her head at the end of the first quarter!"

According to the eagle-eyed observer, the former Keeping Up With the Kardashians star was so engaged throughout the game that she "was jumping around so much and got hot and took off her jacket."

As the insider explained, "When the game started getting close she was pacing a little!" But, as the source shared, the supermodel did have a few moments where she was able to relax and even "kicked up" her feet at one point.

Kendall watched her boyfriend's game in total off-duty model style, of course, and let fans see exactly what she wore to the event.

The Keeping Up With the Kardashians star rocked a crop top and white pants with an oversized Suns jacket. Prior to the game, Kendall posed in a few selfies on her Instagram Stories so fans could see her sporty look.

During the game, Kendall accessorized with a face mask, per the insider, which she wore most of the evening. The eyewitness also noted that Kendall didn't cheer on Devin alone. She hung out with a few friends at the game.

While some people might have noticed Kendall's trend of dating basketball players, the model slammed the idea that she "only" dates athletes on the Keeping Up With the Kardashians reunion episode.

"No, I don't actually only date basketball players, if anyone's ever done their research," she responded. "I'm not ashamed that I have a type, and I'm also a genuine basketball fan."

Plus, now that the duo has passed the one-year mark, it seems like this relationship is different for Kendall, who usually isn't public about her private life.

"This is the happiest Kendall has been in a relationship," another insider told E! News in April. "It's getting more and more serious and she is very happy." The source continued, saying that Devin's "not interested" in "being in the spotlight." Our insider added, "She really appreciates that about him and is attracted to that. They are really similar and love just being low-key and staying in and laughing together."

PHOENIX (AP) When Devin Booker took his usual seat on the bench at the beginning of the second quarter, the Phoenix Suns lost their stranglehold on Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Booker had scored 11 points and the Suns built a 16-point lead on Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Footprint Center was in a frenzy and Phoenix couldn't miss a shot.

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