PHOENIX SUNS

If history is our guide, Suns will show up re-focused after Game 3 loss

Jul 11, 2021, 8:35 PM | Updated: 10:15 pm
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives past Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns ...
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives past Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns for a layup during the second half in Game Three of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum on July 11, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE – The bad Suns don’t show up very often. When they do, they are usually lacking energy and desperation. It’s probably Game 3 of a playoff series.

Don’t be surprised. We’ve seen this movie before. It usually ends well.

“We’ll be fine,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said. “We’re going to watch film. We’re going to talk this out. We’re going to man up to this.”

The Bucks finally threw punches that hurt in a 120-100 victory on Sunday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo imposed his physicality, exceeding 40 points for the second consecutive game; Jrue Holiday finally resembled an impact player; Deandre Ayton forayed into foul trouble for the first time this postseason, leaving the Suns exposed around the basket; while Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges had terrible performances.

Not even Cam Johnson’s poster dunk for the ages could spark the Suns in Game 3.

“There are a lot of ways you can spin it, but they played with a great deal of aggression for longer stretches than we did,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “We knew it was coming. We did not respond to it well tonight. Especially in the second and third quarters.”

If history is our guide, the Suns will show up re-focused and re-energized in Game 4. They better, because the second quarter represented the Suns at their worst.

They were lacking intensity. Their shooting touch was off. Turnovers were flowing. The defense allowed too many uncontested layups and dunks. The Suns played as if they had no fear of their opponent, succumbing to their worst tendency.

Shortly after the quarter started, it felt like the game was trending in the other direction, toward an inevitable coronation. Cam Payne made a floater in the lane, giving the Suns a 36-30 lead. The building went mute. The Bucks were on the ropes. They called timeout out of desperation. And then they closed the quarter on a 30-9 run.

When do the Suns ever allow 35 and 38 points in successive quarters?

“We have a few days off here where we’re going to get right,” Booker said.

Johnson did his best to rally the Suns. He soared over P.J. Tucker, channeling the memory of Tom Chambers and throwing down a vicious dunk while drawing a foul. He scored on drives to the basket and perimeter shots, taking over the game and electrifying his stunned teammates. But just as the Suns made a real push, Holiday got Nashville hot, and there was no catching the Bucks on Sunday.

“This is one of those games that you typically, in NBA speak, say, ‘Flush it’,” Williams said. “But you can’t in the Finals. We have to watch the film and learn and get back to playing our kind of basketball consistently.”

To be clear, the outcome had nothing to do with NBA official Scott Foster, the perceived nemesis of Suns point guard Chris Paul. The Bucks scored 54 points in the paint. With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, they had a 20-0 advantage in second chance points. They took the fight to Phoenix and the Suns responded with a lazy, sloppy game.

The danger is in the psychology of the moment. The Bucks erased all doubts on Sunday. Holiday worked himself into the Finals by increasing his effort on defense; and if the home team evens the series in Game 4, it would represent a huge swing in momentum.

After the game, Williams made it implicitly clear he was not happy about Giannis using his size, strength and athleticism to steamroll through Suns defenders. Especially if the Bucks are now targeting Ayton, attempting to get him off the court.

“I’m not going to get into complaining publicly about fouls,” Williams said. “I’m just not going to do that. But we had 16 free throws tonight. One person had 17.”

Twenty years ago, a franchise located in downtown Phoenix won the first two games of a championship series. It felt remarkably easy. And then all hell broke loose in the Bronx. The Diamondbacks needed seven games to win that World Series, including a ninth-inning comeback against the greatest relief pitcher in history.

In other words, the Suns need to put an end to this uprising in Game 4. We’ve seen enough drama already.

Penguin Air
Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul (3) goes to the basket during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker (17) reaches for the basketball during the first half of Game 3 against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) shoots against Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez (11) puts back a shot against Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Phoenix Suns' Torrey Craig (12) dunks during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton (22) shoots against Phoenix Suns' Cameron Payne (15) during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton (22) shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' Jrue Holiday (21) during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) battle for the ball during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Phoenix Suns' Torrey Craig (12) dunks during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Bobby Portis (9) dunks during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reacts during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker (17) puts up a shot against Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reacts during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) puts up a shot during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis, right, reacts to a basket as Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) looks on during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots on Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) dunks against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) battle for a loose ball during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) battle for a loose ball during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives on Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) drives on Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson, left, and Mikal Bridges (25) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Phoenix Suns' Frank Kaminsky (8) shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton (22) during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) drives past Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) and Jae Crowder (99) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) looks to shoot past Phoenix Suns' Cameron Johnson (23) and Jae Crowder during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo (43) shoots on Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reacts after a dunk during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday reacts after hitting a basket against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig (12) and Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis (9) battle for the ball during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis reacts to a basket against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, backs down Phoenix Suns' Jae Crowder during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Phoenix Suns' Cameron Johnson (23) dunks as he's fouled by Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker (17) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer gestures from the sideline during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker (17) reacts to a call during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' Jrue Holiday (21) shoots against Phoenix Suns' Cameron Johnson during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives on Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker (17) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Phoenix Suns' Jae Crowder reacts as he talks with members of the Milwaukee Bucks bench during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, is fouled by Phoenix Suns' Jae Crowder, left, during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Phoenix Suns' Frank Kaminsky (8) is fouled by Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez (11) is fouled as he drives between Phoenix Suns' Jae Crowder (99) and Deandre Ayton (22) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and Khris Middleton react to a call during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' Jrue Holiday, middle, drives to the basket between Phoenix Suns' Torrey Craig, left, and Frank Kaminsky, right, during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) 
              Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul (3) talks with Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
            Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez claps after making a shot during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton, middle, dribbles between Phoenix Suns' Frank Kaminsky, left, and Abdel Nader, right, during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts to a basket against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Milwaukee won 120-100. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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