A Middleton Masterpiece & A CP3 Collapse

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Updated: July 15, 2021
cp3 collapse

After the colossal performance by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Game 4 would decide if the series would go back to Phoenix tied up or Milwaukee down in deep 3-1. In the opening minutes, it was the Suns on cruise control who forced an early timeout for the Bucks with a 10-4 lead. Antetokounmpo opted to take his early rest at the 8-minute mark of the first just as he had in the previous game. It appears to be a new rest regimen that allows the Bucks to maximize his minutes down the stretch of the 4th quarter.

Despite the slow start and poor shooting by the Bucks, Giannis’ ability to get into the paint, and the Suns’ recklessness with the ball, Milwaukee found themselves only down 3 at the end of the first, 23-20. Halfway through the 2nd, the hometown crowd and overwhelming volume in Milwaukee seemed to fuel the Bucks’ pace and intensity to take their first lead of the night at 35-33. The Suns started to feel some sort of way with the home whistle as the Bucks continued to get to the line. But with some back and forth shot-making, Booker started to cook. In a quiet, 10-point-performance in game 3, he came to play tonight in game 4 with 18 in the first half. Middleton was also hot with a 16 point first half, and the team’s entered the 3rd all tied up, 52-52.

Chris Paul in the first half had as many turnovers as points and would need to come alive if they planned to come away with the win over Giannis and the Bucks at home. Halfway through the 3rd, CP3’s recklessness with the ball continued but so did the scoring by Booker. With a combination of Jrue and PJ on Devin, none of it seemed to matter as he was set on automatic. As good as Devon was on the offensive end, he picked up his 4th foul, and Monte Morris was forced to put him on the sidelines. Giannis continued to penetrate and apply pressure inside, which opened up the spacing on the floor for the Bucks shooters and they took the lead with 3 and a half remaining in the 3rd quarter at 70-69.

Booker was quickly brought back in with the 4 fouls and regained the lead with the Kobe-like jumper from 16 feet. With their small-ball lineup and CP3 on the sidelines, the Suns continued to push the pace and protect the rim despite their lack of size. Two back to blocks from Cam Johnson and Crowder, and an 18 point 3rd, 7-7 from Booker, led the Suns into the 4th quarter up 6.
Quickly the tide changed though in Milwaukee’s favor, as a phantom call on Booker put him at 5 fouls and was forced to sit to save him for the final minutes of the game. Middleton’s scoring continued with 28 points with 8 minutes remaining in the 4th. Quickly after, the free-safety Giannis Antetokounmpo shot the passing lane with a steal and dunk on the other end. The question would be, how long would Morris keep Booker on the bench with his 5 fouls?

Even with Devin on the sidelines, the Suns continued to weather the storm and get to the line. With the score of 90-93 in Phoenix’s favor, the young Cam Johnson hit a big mid-range jumper to push the lead back up to 5. With 6 minutes left Booker was brought back in the game but had seemed to have cooled off. Every time the Suns attempted to pull away, Middleton had an answer. After another Chris Paul turnover, Jrue Holiday was clearly wrapped up and fouled by Booker, but a no-call left the ball back to Giannis for an easy layup. It would’ve been his 6, but the referees seemed to be making up for the phantom call earlier in the quarter. We had a 1-point game with only 3 and a half remaining in game 4. CP3 challenged ex-defensive player of the year Antetokounmpo at the rim and was denied which turned into an open 3 in transition on the other end to take a 2-point lead for Milwaukee.

Back the other way Booker would not be denied and banked a push shot off the glass for his 40th of the night. In his 3rd 40 point game of the postseason, Booker continues to accumulate historic 1st appearance playoff numbers. Under two minutes to play, all tied up Middleton hit a huge jumper from the free-throw line to put the Bucks up two. Down the other end, the Suns attempted to feed Ayton inside with an alley-oop, but was blocked by Giannis a foot above the rim. With a minute left in the game down two, CP3 slipped and fell, coughing up the rock to allow the Bucks to lead a fast break with numbers for an easy Middleton layup to a take a 4 point lead.

4 points down, 27 seconds on the clock, the Phoenix Suns needed to score quickly. The ball was quickly fed to Booker which he punched off the glass to be recovered by the Bucks to drain the game clinching free throws. Middleton with a heroic 40-point performance led the Bucks to victory to tie up the series 2-2. Booker’s 40 piece would go into the books similar to his 70-point game years ago, in a loss. 5 turnovers for Paul and 4 by Booker and 17 as a team, is not the recipe for a win on the road.
They say the series doesn’t start till the home team takes a loss on their own floor. With the series tied, Milwaukee will have the opportunity game 5 in Phoenix to feed the Suns the L to lead them to the championship.

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