MILWAUKEE – Giannis Antetokounmpo did not dominate.
Jrue Holiday had another bad offensive night, spending efforts to protect Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
The Milwaukee Bucks bench was OK, not great.
But the Bucks leaned on Khris Middleton and surpassed 40% shooting from the field and a spectacular offensive performance by Booker to beat the Phoenix Suns 109-103 in Game 4 of Wednesday’s NBA Finals in the best game of the series.
Trailing most of the second half, the Bucks took the lead at the end of the fourth period with eight straight points from Middleton and a strong defense, including two blocks from Antetokounmpo, one over Chris Paul and one over Deandre Ayton.
Middleton led the Bucks with 40 points and Antetokounmpo had 26 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks.
The series is tied 2-2, and Game 5 is Saturday in Phoenix (9pm ET, ABC).
Here are four key points from Milwaukee’s Race 4 victory:
Middleton yes, holidays no
Middleton was aggressive from the start. He took 15 shots in the first half and ended with a career playoff record of 33 attempts. He scored 24 points in the second half and gave the Bucks a chance to win.
His defensive mate Holiday had another night of heavy shooting in the finals. Holiday was 4-for-20 and didn’t have a skillful twist on his iron shots.
The Bucks have had chances. Pat Connaughton missed a triple that would have equalized the score with 7:15 from the end of the fourth quarter, and Holiday missed a 3 at 4:05 to play that would have equaled the score at 95-95. Another missed Holiday shot would have put Milwaukee ahead 99-97.
Booker was going crazy
Booker had just 10 points on a 3 for 14 shot in Milwaukee’s Game 3 win. He is known for rebounding games and had one in Game 4.
He had 12 points in the second quarter and 18 in the third. But he took his fourth foul in the third and his fifth foul with 10:50 from the end of the game. He had 38 points when he left the game. Booker returned with 5:55 left and the Suns earned 93-90.
Booker, who finished with 42 points, smashed Milwaukee with his mid-range play around the foul line.
Restrict Antetokounmpo – to some degree
Ayton stayed off the hook and that helped the Suns protect the paint much better than they did in Game 3 when the Bucks had a 54-40 lead, including 28 points in Antetokounmpo’s paint.
The Bucks star finished with 20 points in the paint on Wednesday.
Ayton scored six points, 17 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
Paul only scored 10 points and finished with five turnovers, giving him 17 in four final games. The Bucks scored 24 points out of the Suns’ 17 turnovers and beat the Suns 15-0 on counterattack points. Phoenix manager Monty Williams has been concerned with defending the transition for all series, and it doesn’t help when the Suns are giving away live-ball turnovers.
“We need to have an efficient attack and a balanced attack so we can get the boys back,” Williams said before Game 4. “But two, once there is a transition awareness for us, we have to sprint, go back and forming the wall and then knowing it’s not just about Giannis “.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.