The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns 123-119 in Game 5 on Saturday to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals. My how this series has shifted. Once left for dead, the Bucks can become the fifth team in history to come back from an 0-2 Finals hole to win a championship.
The Bucks trailed by 16 at the end of the first quarter, but by halftime, they were up by three. Milwaukee cut almost all of that deficit with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the bench. Over the first six minutes of the second quarter, the Bucks outscored Phoenix 25-12, and Jrue Holiday had nine of those 25 points.
Holiday was a beast on both ends in this game. We’ve gotten used to Holiday’s spectacular defense in this series, but his shooting has been mostly abysmal until Saturday, when he finished with 27 points and 13 assists on 12-of-20 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3, for a team-high plus-14 in 42 minutes.
Holiday made the play of the game, and to this point the Bucks’ season, with under 20 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. The Suns were down one. Devin Booker penetrated, and after P.J. Tucker did a good job in cutting off Booker’s angle, forcing him to stop and turn away from the basket, Holiday sunk down off Chris Paul and was there waiting to straight up rip the ball clean out of Booker’s hands before tossing an alley-oop to Antetokounmpo on the other end.
If the Bucks go on to the championship, which would be the franchise’s first since 1971, this could well go down as the single-most-important sequence of at least the last half-century of Bucks basketball. If Booker finishes that bucket, and the Suns go on to win the game, Milwaukee’s historical chances of coming back from a 3-2 deficit to win the series would sit at just below 20 percent.
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Now, with a 3-2 lead — again, from a historical standpoint on seven-game series — they have better than an 80 percent chance of winning. A lot happened in this game, as does every game, that makes it impossible to drill the final outcome down to one play. But as plays go, this was about as huge as it gets. After Giannis’ dunk, the Bucks led by three. He missed the free throw, but he tipped out his own miss and Milwaukee got the offensive rebound and two Khris Middleton free throws later the game was over.
What a moment for Holiday, who has taken a lot of heat for his offensive struggles in this series and throughout the playoffs. The Bucks signed him to get them over the championship hump, and he might’ve just done that, though there is still a lot of work to be done.