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Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul Star as Suns Beat Giannis, Bucks in NBA Finals Rematch

Doric SamFebruary 11, 2022

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 10: Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns shoots the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 10, 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

In a rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals, the Phoenix Suns came away with a 131-107 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. Deandre Ayton led the way with 27 points on 12-of-14 shooting as Phoenix maintained the best record in the league at 45-10.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Ayton put Giannis on a poster 😳 <a href="https://t.co/M3HPbBHPTj">pic.twitter.com/M3HPbBHPTj</a>

Chris Paul added 17 points and tied a season-high with 19 assists. For the Suns, it was their fourth straight win and 15th victory in their last 16 games. It was the first meeting of the season between last year's conference champions.  

The Bucks had their four-game win streak come to an end and fell to 35-22. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton both had 21 points in the loss. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting.


Notable Stats

C Deandre Ayton, PHX: 27 points (12-of-14 FG), 7 rebounds

G Chris Paul, PHX: 17 points, 19 assists

G Devin Booker, PHX: 17 points (6-of-19 FG), 7 assists

G Jrue Holiday, MIL: 21 points

F Khris Middleton, MIL: 21 points

F Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL: 18 points (5-of-14 FG), 7 rebounds, 8 assists


Suns Dominate Inside En Route to Big Victory

Phoenix looked like a team on a mission Thursday night. Every chance they got, the Suns aggressively drove the ball into the paint for high-percentage shots.

It also helped that Phoenix played a fairly clean game, giving up just three turnovers in the first half. Led by Ayton's strong performance inside, Phoenix took an eight-point lead into halftime. The big man scored 15 of his 27 points before heading into the locker room.

Gerald Bourguet @GeraldBourguet

Three keys to that first half:<br><br>-Suns up 36-24 in points in the paint<br>-Suns up 9-4 in second-chance points<br>-17 assists to only 3 TOs

Kellan Olson @KellanOlson

Just a real gritty half from the Suns. They shot 3-of-16 from 3 but still managed 64 points thanks to 17 assists, 36 points in the paint, 19 bench points and only three turnovers.<br><br>CP3 played 21 minutes. They want this one bad.

The Ayton Show continued in the third quarter as the Suns blew the game open. He was able to take advantage of Milwaukee's undersized frontline, especially when Antetokounmpo wasn't guarding him. Ayton had Bobby Portis and others visibly frustrated because of his energy and activity down low.

Gerald Bourguet @GeraldBourguet

Deandre Ayton and Bobby Portis were jostling in the paint. Foul on Portis. Portis gives Ayton a little something extra with his hands on him. Tech on Portis. Ayton just stood there and grinned

Phoenix Suns @Suns

THAT'S WHY THEY CALL HIM DOMINAYTON 😀 <a href="https://t.co/7DcLH7MfWW">pic.twitter.com/7DcLH7MfWW</a>

Gerald Bourguet @GeraldBourguet

Playoff Deandre Ayton is here, and you know he wanted to play well tonight after talking about how poorly he played against Giannis in last year's Finals. He looks determined. Inspired.<br><br>Plenty of motivAYTON.

Kellan Olson @KellanOlson

No Brook Lopez or Giannis defending Ayton has changed this matchup. Bucks have been switching everything and the Suns are punishing them for it through DA. That's 19 points for him on 8-of-10 shooting.

Phoenix took a 20-point lead into the fourth quarter and didn't take its foot off the gas. In addition to Ayton's efficient night, Mikal Bridges (18 points) shot 7-of-11, Cam Johnson (15 points) shot 6-of-8 and JaVale McGee (12 points) shot 6-of-9. 

Phoenix Suns @Suns

ATTENTION SUNS FANS.<br><br>SLAM JOHNSON HAS TAKEN OFF! ✈️ <a href="https://t.co/fH6ljaLZy3">pic.twitter.com/fH6ljaLZy3</a>

The Suns' prowess inside was especially needed on a night where they shot 9-of-30 from beyond the arc.

Phoenix finished with a field-goal percentage of 56.7 and outscored Milwaukee in the paint 68-50. The team had 35 assists to just eight turnovers and every player that entered the game scored at least one point. It was a spirited effort clearly motivated by a desire to avenge last year's loss in the NBA Finals.

Thursday's win was a statement victory for the Suns, who are the clear front-runners to contend for a title this season.


Bucks Run Out of Gas at End of Road Trip

Milwaukee obviously wasn't playing with the same motivation as it had in last year's finals, but it was clear that the team was a step behind the Suns throughout the night.

The Bucks got ran out of the building Thursday, losing steam in the second half after getting dominated inside by an aggressive Phoenix offense. The lackluster effort by Milwaukee came two days after a blowout victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in which Antetokounmpo went off for 44 points.

Things were much different against the Suns, as Antetokounmpo was limited to just six field-goal attempts in the first half. He scored all 18 of his points in the first three quarters, and it looked like he was ready for the West Coast road trip to come to an end.

Kellan Olson @KellanOlson

Giannis at 10 points on eight shot attempts. He will turn it up at some point here. Suns taking advantage with an 11-point lead.

Eric Nehm @eric_nehm

I don't think the Bucks are going to have the legs for this one tonight with a shorthanded roster at the end of a west coast trip.<br><br>Suns up, 74-61, with 6:50 left in the third quarter.

Eric Nehm @eric_nehm

Remember that time Giannis Antetokounmpo guarded both the alley and the oop and blocked Deandre Ayton at the rim in the Finals?<br><br>Well, he was a step slow there and Ayton just got him back.

The Bucks fell behind by as many as 27 in the second half. Head coach Mike Budenholzer waved the white flag halfway through the fourth quarter and pulled his starters.

These are the dog days of the NBA as we inch closer to the All-Star break. With a run of six straight home games on the horizon, it was clear the Bucks were ready to head back to Milwaukee. This is the type of loss that the team will put in its rearview immediately as it moves forward this season.


What's Next?

The Suns will go for their fifth straight win Saturday when the Orlando Magic come to town. The Bucks will return to Milwaukee to start a six-game homestand Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers.