Giannis Antetokounmpo was not about to let his Milwaukee Bucks fall into a 3-0 NBA Finals hole.
In the franchise’s first home Finals game since 1974, the Bucks dominated a must-win Game 3 against the Phoenix Suns 120-100 on the strength of the two-time MVP’s 41 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes. Following his 42-point effort in Game 2, Antetokounmpo joined LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan as the only players to log back-to-back 40-point Finals games in the last 50 years.
The Suns still lead the series, 2-1. Milwaukee hosts Game 4 on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
Milwaukee ran a layup line in the second quarter, scoring 22 points in the paint and outscoring Phoenix 35-17 in the frame. The floodgates opened when P.J. Tucker corralled an offensive board on the baseline and found a cutting Antetokounmpo for a raucous dunk that gave the Bucks a 39-38 lead and forced a timeout.
Suns coach Monty Williams opted to give Ayton a breather after the 75-second break, and with only Frank Kaminsky available to play backup center, the 22-year-old rising star could merely watch from the bench as Antetokounmpo scored the game’s next five points on two layups plus one foul shot. By the time Ayton checked back in with 3:44 remaining in the opening half, Milwaukee led 50-42 and Fiserv Forum was rocking. In total, the Bucks closed the second quarter on a 22-7 run to take a 60-45 lead entering halftime.
Worse for Phoenix, Ayton picked up his second and third fouls in the final 92 seconds of the first half and his fourth 95 seconds into the third quarter. This time, Williams turned to wiry second-year forward Cam Johnson in a small-ball lineup, and Johnson responded with 10 points to help the Suns pull within 74-70.
A pair of Jrue Holiday 3-pointers turned the tide against Phoenix once again, and Milwaukee closed the third quarter on a 24-6 run (featuring more Kaminsky) to take a 98-76 lead into the fourth. Antetokounmpo was a monster throughout both Bucks runs, scoring 27 of his 41 points in the second and third quarters.
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