PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns have never been closer to an NBA title.
Devin Booker scored 31 points, Chris Paul had 23 and the Suns beat the Milwaukee Bucks 118-108 Thursday night to take a 2-0 series lead.
The Suns rose faster late in the first half, resisting Giannis Antetokounmpo’s all-around effort to bring the Bucks back and walking off the winners again as fans swung orange rally towels around them.
Antetokounmpo had 42 points and 12 rebounds left in his second game after missing two games due to a hyperextended left knee.
The Suns never even had the lead in the NBA Finals until their 118-105 victory in Game 1. They dropped the first two games in both 1976 and 1993, their only other appearances, and won no more than two games in both series. .
They already have two this time and are going after a third Sunday in Milwaukee, which is hosting the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.
Booker made seven 3-pointers and the Suns went 20 to 40 behind the arc. Mikal Bridges scored 27 points and Paul finished with eight assists.
Jrue Holiday played more aggressively but did not shoot much better than in Game 1, scoring 17 points but hitting only 7 for 21. Khris Middleton was 5 for 16, forcing Antetokounmpo to carry an even heavier load on his sore left leg.
It adds that the Bucks will have to overcome a 2-0 deficit for the second time this record season. They did it against the Brooklyn Nets in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference, but had little help when first James Harden and then Kyrie Irving were injured.
Now they face a Suns team full of weapons all over the lineup and showed them all in the most beautiful game in this series.
They whipped the ball around the perimeter to the last basket of the first half. It went from Paul to Booker to Jae Crowder to Bridges, back to Crowder to Paul, then over to Crowder and once again Bridge. He finally fed it in to Deandre Ayton, who scored while committing with 14.9 seconds left to a 56-45 lead at the break.
The Bucks could only dream of having so many guys involved. Antetokounmpo’s 15 goals were more than twice as many as any other Milwaukee player.