Phoenix were up by nine points in the fourth quarter, but the Bucks weathered the storm behind Middleton’s 40-point output (15-for-33 field goal shooting), 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 43 minutes. He took over the game in the last few minutes of the contest.
The biggest shift in momentum for Milwaukee was the block on an alley-oop to Deandre Ayton (6 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists), which would of tied the game at 103 with just over one minute left in the contest.
Middleton is an bonafide All-Star with a lot of confidence in his game, always believing that no matter how poorly he starts that he can turn things around.
”Khris has no fear and he never has,” Milwaukee guard Jrue Holiday said.
Booker returned to the game halfway through the final period after picking up his fifth foul around the 11-minute mark.
Booker reached 522 points in this postseason at the end of the third, marking the most points ever scored by a player in his first appearance in the playoffs. He passed Hall of Famers Rick Barry and Julius Erving, who respectively scored 521 and 518 in their playoff debuts in 1967 and 1977.
”We wanted this bad and the team showed it tonight,” Antetokounmpo said.
The Suns led by two points with 2 1/2 minutes left before Middleton made the next two baskets to give the Bucks a 101-99 lead with 1:28 to play. It appeared Phoenix would tie it with a lob pass to Ayton but Antetokounmpo blocked it, flexing his muscles to the crowd behind the basket as Milwaukee broke the other way on the fast break.
Point guard Chris Paul struggled from the start of the game and only managed to put up two points in the first half and 10 total points in the game.
”This is a tough one but we’ve got to bounce back,” Paul said. ”That’s why we fought all season to get home court.”
The series now shifts back to Phoenix for Game 5 on Saturday and Middleton said the Bucks had to take the momentum with them.
Brook Lopez had 14 points for the Bucks and Holiday chipped in 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He shot only 4 for 20, but his defense helped knock Paul off his game.
The Bucks improved to 9-1 at home in the playoffs. They are trying to overcome a 2-0 deficit for the second time in this postseason.
Phoenix never got more than two wins in their two previous trips to the NBA Finals but it seemed they were finally headed there Wednesday. Booker had a big finish to the third quarter to send them to the fourth leading 82-76, but he picked up his fifth foul barely a minute into the period and sat for about five minutes.
”When you have that kind of lead in the fourth, if we can just hold on to the ball and get good possessions, you feel like you can at least hold it there,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
Suns: Booker has 542 points, most ever for a player in his first postseason. Rick Barry scored 521 in 1967. … Jae Crowder scored 15 points.
Bucks: Milwaukee shot just 7 for 29 (24%) from 3-point range. … Pat Connaughton had 11 points and nine rebounds.
BEST OF THE BUCKS
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson sat next to each other and were given a loud ovation when shown during the first half. Bob Dandridge and Jon McGlocklin were the other members of the Bucks’ only NBA championship team who were at the game.