Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks Beat Devin Booker, Suns to Even 2021 NBA Finals at 2-2

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 15, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives to the basket between Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, left, and forward Mikal Bridges (25) during the second half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
AP Photo/Aaron Gash

It's a brand new series.

The Milwaukee Bucks tied the 2021 NBA Finals at two games apiece with a dramatic 109-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Wednesday's Game 4 at Fiserv Forum. Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, who continued the pattern of the home team taking every contest of this series with their second successive win.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

GIANNIS AND THE BUCKS TIE UP THE SERIES ๐Ÿšจ <a href="https://t.co/eMNnboXpvg">pic.twitter.com/eMNnboXpvg</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Khris Middleton stepped up in Game 4 ๐Ÿ”ฅ <a href="https://t.co/VaqkRZazgX">pic.twitter.com/VaqkRZazgX</a>

A brilliant showing from Devin Booker wasn't enough for the Suns, who will look to regroup with the series returning to Phoenix for a critical Game 5.

Notable Player Stats

  • Khris Middleton, F, MIL: 40 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, MIL: 26 PTS, 14 REB, 8 AST, 3 STL, 2 BLK
  • Devin Booker, G, PHO: 42 PTS, 17-of-28 FG
  • Jae Crowder, F, PHO: 15 PTS, 8 REB, 3 AST, 3 STL, 3 BLK

Middleton, Incredible 4th Quarter Propel Bucks to Win

Everything begins and ends with Antetokounmpo for the Bucks, and Wednesday was the opportunity to continue what was shaping up to be a legendary NBA Finals performance.

In fact, his back-to-back showings of more than 40 points in Games 2 and 3 had people talking about Michael Jordan's historic 1993 Finals showing against the Suns. Yet, the biggest difference from the Game 3 win and initial losses was the supporting cast's ability to take advantage of all the defensive attention he draws.

Middleton clearly noticed.

ESPN @espn

Khris Middleton came up big in the final minutes of Game 4 ๐Ÿ”ฅ<br><br>He led the Bucks in scoring with 40 Pts ๐Ÿ’ช <a href="https://t.co/Gijd1XtGZp">pic.twitter.com/Gijd1XtGZp</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

GIANNIS CAME UP CLUTCH ๐Ÿ˜ค<br><br>A HUGE block when it mattered <a href="https://t.co/ZbyMCj8L1s">pic.twitter.com/ZbyMCj8L1s</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Giannis coast-to-coast ๐Ÿ”จ<br><br>We got a game<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>) <a href="https://t.co/huIze8vW7D">pic.twitter.com/huIze8vW7D</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

GIANNIS PUTBACK ๐Ÿ˜ค<br><br>Greek Freak got up<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/ZHD44Byubn">pic.twitter.com/ZHD44Byubn</a>

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are the 3rd pair of teammates (4th instance) over the last 50 years to each have a 40-point game in a single NBA Finals.<br><br>The others are LeBron James/Kyrie Irving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Magic Johnson. <a href="https://t.co/SJJZkV6WCj">pic.twitter.com/SJJZkV6WCj</a>

While Jrue Holiday was brutal from the field (4-of-20), Middleton more than picked up the slack as the only Bucks starter to make a three-pointer. It was because of his individual efforts that the home team remained even within striking distance as Booker dominated on the offensive end and Antetokounmpo was missing some of the aggressiveness that defined the early portion of this series.

What's more, Middleton saved his best for last.

He scored 10 straight points for the Bucks in the final three minutes, which helped turn a tie game into a momentum-swinging victory. Pat Connaughton also hit a clutch three before Middleton's stretch, and Antetokounmpo turned heads with a memorable block on a Deandre Ayton dunk attempt, but it was the Middleton show when the game was on the line for Milwaukee.

If his team goes on to win the championship, his showing will go down in NBA history.

Suns Waste Booker's Performance

Coming into Wednesday's contest, the biggest storyline from Phoenix's perspective was how Booker would bounce back after playing just 29 minutes and scoring 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting during the Game 3 loss.

The visitors couldn't have scripted a better start for Booker on Wednesday.

Booker sliced his way through Milwaukee's defense and unleashed a number of midrange shots on his way to 20 first-half points to anchor his team's attack. However, the game was still tied at intermission despite his dominance because nobody else on the Suns had more than seven points, including Chris Paul and Ayton.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

History for Book ๐Ÿ“š <a href="https://t.co/Q9dfjyQugn">pic.twitter.com/Q9dfjyQugn</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Book is DEEP in his bag ๐Ÿ’ฐ<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>) <a href="https://t.co/ekeCNvYoKT">pic.twitter.com/ekeCNvYoKT</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Book is a problem. <br><br>Heโ€™s got 36 and counting<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/GLky8cIEnO">pic.twitter.com/GLky8cIEnO</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Suns fans watching D-Book cook<br><br>He scored 18 in the 3Q ๐Ÿ”ฅ <a href="https://t.co/4PB7dp0VRd">pic.twitter.com/4PB7dp0VRd</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

D-Book wasn't called for a foul on this Jrue Holiday drive ๐Ÿ‘€<br><br>He has 5 fouls <a href="https://t.co/pyw0NULe3H">pic.twitter.com/pyw0NULe3H</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

D-Book came to play โ™จ๏ธ<br><br>18 PTS | 7-11 so far<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/YLIOOsbyIa">pic.twitter.com/YLIOOsbyIa</a>

Holiday deserved much of the credit for keeping Paul in relative check with his hounding defense, but the biggest concern for Phoenix came midway through the third quarter when Booker went to the bench with four fouls after essentially being the team's only source of offense for extended stretches.

Rather than remain on the bench for long, Booker returned even with the foul trouble and torched the Bucks for a stunning 18 points in the third quarter alone. He was so brilliant that the Suns had a six-point lead heading to the fourth without a single other player in double figures.

However, he once again returned to the bench in the fourth quarter with his fifth foul and somehow managed to escape fouling out despite an obvious no-call on what should have been his sixth.

The offense lost some of its rhythm when he was sidelined and never found it even after he returned. Ayton was impressive on the boards but had just six points, while Paul turned it over five times and looked like anything but the future Hall of Famer who has played so well throughout the playoffs.

The result was a wasted opportunity for the Suns.

What's Next?

The series returns to Phoenix for Saturday's Game 5.