Devin Booker has worked and planned his entire life to get to an NBA Finals so you just knew there would be a response after the Suns’ leading scorer was held to just 10 in Game 3.
The response was a one-man show that put the Suns in a position to get within a game of their first-ever NBA title.
But Booker, who would wind up with 42 points, wasn’t just piling up the points in this one, he was piling up the fouls too, and that ultimately took him out of the game for seven important minutes of the fourth quarter and allowed the Bucks to stay close.
Booker got back in with just over three minutes to go, but that flow and spark he had going earlier were gone.
With the game up for grabs, it was Khris Middleton handling the scoring for the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo with a chase-down block that turned the tide and tied this series at two games each with a 109-103 Bucks win.
Middleton, who had his share of moments earlier in the game keeping pace with the fast start by Booker, scored eight of the final 10 points by the Bucks to put this one away and wound up with a tidy 40 point-game of his for his efforts.
For most of the night, though, this one had been all Booker.
Booker’s middle name may as well have been Get-a-bucket because he was just about that automatic in this one until that fifth foul put him on the bench.
The Bucks played tight defense on the Suns’ best scorer to that point to no avail. Blanketed he scored. Left even a sliver of daylight he scored as well. It was that kind of night for the Bucks when it came to defending Booker.
What they couldn’t do defensively, the foul situation did for them.
Booker picked up with his fifth foul at 10:50 to go in the game as he recklessly crashed the boards going after a rebound he probably wasn’t going to get anyway. In the process, there was some contact and that was his fifth foul. It could have easily been a play-on.
The Suns had a four-point lead at the time.
They actually held it until he returned and it was then that Middleton took over hitting the same kind of defended shots that Booker had been earlier
The two teams played to a tie at halftime but it was the Suns who had to be upset by that outcome.
The Suns, as promised, picked up the pace and at one point in the half had a nine-point lead. But what they couldn’t change was the whistle which once again seemed to favor the Bucks as it did in Game 2.
The Bucks were flagged for just six personal fouls in the first half, the Suns 10.
Monty Williams made a point of mentioning the free throw discrepancy that favored Milwaukee dramatically after Game 3. A lot of good that did him as the Bucks went to the line 13 times in that first half converting 11 while the Suns got there just six times and hit on all six.
The biggest question coming out of Game 3 was what happened to Chris Paul.
Paul, so dominant in those first two games in Phoenix saw his production just about fall off a cliff in Game 4. Paul played just over 15 minutes in that first half but was held to just four shots and only one made.
He also turned the ball over four times, something Paul does with about as much regularity as your dog cleans up after himself.
Paul just didn’t seem to have the same energy or lift or anything on this night. There was no indication from the Suns that he was dealing with an injury of any sort although if it were the type of injury he would play through, the less attention brought to it the better from their standpoint.
Paul did give the Suns a little bit extra as Booker left the game with 41/2 minutes to go in the third after picking up his fourth foul, but that was about it.
That too is going to be a storyline that gets a lot of attention until Game 5 tips in Phoenix on Saturday night.
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