Giannis Drops 41 as Bucks Cruise Past Devin Booker, Suns in Game 3 of 2021 NBA Finals

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 12, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
AP Photo/Aaron Gash

The Milwaukee Bucks answered the pressure.

Facing what was essentially a must-win contest, Milwaukee defeated the Phoenix Suns 120-100 in Sunday's Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum to trim the deficit in the series to 2-1. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the victors, who avoided falling into a 3-0 deficit that no team has come back from in NBA history.

A solid showing from Chris Paul wasn't enough for the Suns, who still have home-court advantage in the matchup after winning the first two in Phoenix.

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Giannis carries the Bucks to a Game 3 win 🗣<br><br>41 PTS | 13 REB | 6 AST | 13-17 FT <a href="https://t.co/dtSPMSi7Qb">pic.twitter.com/dtSPMSi7Qb</a>

Notable Player Stats

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, MIL: 41 PTS, 13 REB, 6 AST
  • Jrue Holiday, G, MIL: 21 PTS, 9 AST, 5 REB
  • Khris Middleton, F, MIL: 18 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST
  • Chris Paul, G, PHO: 19 PTS, 9 AST
  • Deandre Ayton, C, PHO: 18 PTS, 9 REB, 2 STL
  • Devin Booker, G, PHO: 10 PTS, 6 REB, 3-of-14 FG

Giannis Dominates, Supporting Cast Shows Up

The task was fairly straightforward as far as winning NBA Finals games go for the Bucks on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo probably needed more help if they were going to win.

Even a 42-point double-double in Game 2 from the star wasn't enough to prevent a 10-point loss largely because Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton combined to shoot an ugly 12-of-37 (32.4 percent) from the field. Fortunately for Milwaukee, Middleton poured in 15 points in the first half alone as he rediscovered his stroke and aggressively attacked the rim.

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SPECIAL company. <a href="https://t.co/C531rvnyCt">pic.twitter.com/C531rvnyCt</a>

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This Giannis euro-step is SMOOTH 😮<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBA</a>)<a href="https://t.co/TVzO0OHCI1">pic.twitter.com/TVzO0OHCI1</a>

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This Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis sequence 😨<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/JVRrGBwRJp">pic.twitter.com/JVRrGBwRJp</a>

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GIANNIS IS LOCKED IN. <br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/0dte7tcT8Q">pic.twitter.com/0dte7tcT8Q</a>

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Giannis YAMS it home<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/eVzlKYp94c">pic.twitter.com/eVzlKYp94c</a>

Throw in Holiday working through his own shooting struggles with a handful of dazzling assists and Bobby Portis providing much-needed contributions off the bench, and the Bucks dominated the second quarter to seize early control in front of a raucous crowd.

Game 3 was even more promising for the Bucks' long-term chances in this series when Holiday found his touch from deep in the third quarter. Even Pat Connaughton got in on the action with a three-pointer to cap off a 16-0 run to end the quarter.

The help was critical, but it all came back to Giannis continuing what is shaping up to be a memorable Finals performance. He continued to punish the Suns in the paint instead of settling for three-pointers, capitalized on opportunities in transition, controlled the glass and even shot a solid 13-of-17 from the free-throw line.

Antetokounmpo is playing at such an incredibly high level that he doesn't need an overwhelming amount of help, but the Bucks will win the title if the supporting cast shows up right alongside his dominance three more times.

Devin Booker Struggles as Suns are Blown Out

The Suns can be forgiven for struggling to match the Bucks' desperation on Sunday.

After all, the home team was essentially fighting for its championship life after dropping the first two on the road, and Phoenix has the safety net of Games 5 and 7 back at home if needed. Perhaps that was a factor as the visitors fell behind by double digits in the first half with Devin Booker struggling to find his typical form.

Were it not for a red-hot start from Deandre Ayton with he and Paul utilizing the pick-and-roll, the game might have been over before halftime.

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CP3 put the moves on Giannis 😮<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nba</a>) <a href="https://t.co/1jMk97oJzn">pic.twitter.com/1jMk97oJzn</a>

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CAM JOHNSON DUNKS ON PJ TUCKER 🤯<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/tnzuSVA19w">pic.twitter.com/tnzuSVA19w</a>

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CAM JOHNSON TOOK OFF ✈️ <a href="https://t.co/7yY5rq5MOd">pic.twitter.com/7yY5rq5MOd</a>

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Suns ball movement &gt; <br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBA</a>)<a href="https://t.co/dJf29Q1D51">pic.twitter.com/dJf29Q1D51</a>

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Ayton throws it DOWN 🔨<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/bc3zH9hLDF">pic.twitter.com/bc3zH9hLDF</a>

Phoenix needed a spark in the third quarter when Ayton went to the bench with foul trouble and Booker continued to miss from the outside, and the combination of Cameron Johnson and Jae Crowder provided just that.

The former soared through the air and threw down a monster slam over P.J. Tucker in transition while scoring 10 points in a three-minute span, while the latter drilled three triples in the quarter alone as the Suns tried to remain within striking distance.

Still, the Suns weren't going to win on the road without all of their stars controlling play, especially with depth something of a concern with Dario Saric sidelined and Torrey Craig working through a knee injury.

Ayton spent significant time on the bench in the second half because of foul trouble, Booker was invisible for extended stretches, and Paul could only do so much as the game slipped away.

What's Next?

The series remains in Milwaukee for Wednesday's Game 4.