The Phoenix Suns were 12 minutes away from taking a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals on Wednesday night. Had they won, Saturday’s Game 5 would’ve been a potential series-clinching opportunity, but that’s not the case.
The Milwaukee Bucks rallied in the fourth quarter with Devin Booker on the bench, stealing the game thanks to a multitude of clutch baskets from Khris Middleton and one epic Giannis Antetokounmpo block. And now with the series tied 2-2, the pressure is on the Suns to win at home as both teams have done through four games.
“We are coming back home. We got to protect home court,” Chris Paul said Friday. “I hate it, but it's that simple. We didn't sweep but one series, so this is what happens in a series. That's why they make it seven games. This is the Finals. It's dramatic. We got to protect home court and win the game tomorrow.”
Chris Paul on limiting turnovers and home-court advantage
Paul hasn’t been himself since Game 1, averaging just 14.5 points in the last two contests and committing 15 turnovers over the last three. The most critical giveaway came in Game 4 with the Suns trailing 101-99 with 32 seconds left, when Paul attempted to cross over Antetokounmpo and lost the ball resulting in a Middleton layup on the other end.
“It was bad decision-making,” Paul said after the loss. “That time we were down two and I tried to cross over right there, slipped, turned it over. I had some bad passes in the first half. They got a significant amount more shots than us, so for me, I got to take care of the ball.”
The veteran guard accounted for five of the Sun’s 17 turnovers Wednesday — the Bucks had five as a team — but the Suns shot 51 percent from the floor compared to 40 percent for Milwaukee, which also snatched 17 offensive boards.
Despite having shot the ball better, Phoenix managed to score just 21 points in the fourth quarter and only eight points during the five minutes Booker was sidelined. That’s strange for a team putting up 110 points a night with six players averaging double figures.
What it comes down to is the Suns controlling what they can control.
“At this point, both teams know each other. You know the sets. They can call out our plays; we can call out their plays. It's about execution,” Paul said. “... You can't just bank on the fact that you got home court. You got to go out there and play the game. You got to go out there and execute, so we'll do that. ... That's why we fought all season to get home court.”
Paul is still averaging 21.0 points and 8.3 assists in the Finals. The 36-year-old will look to put his recent struggles behind him Saturday night in what figures to be one of the biggest games of his Hall of Fame career.