Chris Paul scored 32 points and delivered nine assists while Devin Booker contributed 27 points as the Phoenix Suns leaned on their trusty guard’s game on Tuesday to earn a 118-105 win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the NBA finals.
Deandre Ayton scored 22 points and 19 rebounds for the Suns, who have been playing their first NBA Finals since 1993. Phoenix has never won an NBA title.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, recovering from a hyperextended left knee, finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds in 35 minutes after missing the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. Khris Middleton scored 29 points for Milwaukee and Brook Lopez scored 17.
Paul, who was playing his first Finals game in his 16th NBA season, scored 10 of Phoenix’s 12 points in 2:35 at the end of the third quarter to turn a 74-62 Suns lead into an 86-68 lead. .
Paul scored 16 points total in the third while the Suns beat the Bucks 35-26 to take a 92-76 lead in the final quarter.
The Bucks narrowed down to 101-94 on Antetokounmpo’s basket with 7:16 left before Booker and Paul scored two consecutive baskets for the Suns. Milwaukee never got close to nine the rest of the way.
Inspired by Antetokounmpo’s return, the Bucks took the lead 20-18 with 3:37 left in the first quarter. A triple from Cameron Johnson seven seconds later gave the Suns a 21-20 lead, which they never lost again, leading 30-26 at the end of the quarter and 57-49 at half-time.
Mikal Bridges ended the night with 14 points while Johnson and Cameron Payne each had 10 points for the Suns. Phoenix titular forward Jae Crowder, the only player from both teams with NBA Finals experience, scored one point and was 0 for 8 from the field.
Paul and Booker, who led the Suns in scoring during the regular season, were a combination of 20 for 40 from the field and 5 for 15 from 3 points. The Suns overall shot 32.4 percent (11 of 34) from distance, while the Bucks were at 44.4 percent (16 of 36).
Jrue Holiday collected 10 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Bucks, who were only 9 of 16 on foul shots. Antetokounmpo was 7 out of 12 from the line.
The Suns have made 25 free throws out of 26.
The Suns won despite losing reserve long Dario Saric to a knee injury in the first quarter. Saric entered the evening with an average of 4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 13 playoff games this year.
–Average at the field level