The Phoenix Suns appeared destined to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals after the first quarter of Game 5. They barely missed in the period and led the Milwaukee Bucks 37-21. With Giannis Antetokounmpo headed to the bench for a rest at the start of the second, Phoenix had a chance to blow the game wide open and head to Milwaukee with a chance to clinch the championship on Tuesday.
And then, in four minutes and 12 seconds, the lead was gone. The Bucks tied it at 42 apiece at that point and didn't let up from there. They led by as many as 14 points in the second half, and even though Phoenix cut it back down to one, it ultimately fell short 123-119. Devin Booker didn't mince words when discussing the loss. "We came out and did what we intended to do, get off to a great start, and we let it go," Booker said after Game 5. "They stayed resilient and they kept playing through. Tough loss for us."
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Booker did everything in his power to prevent that tough loss. He scored 40 points for the second consecutive game, joining a very exclusive group of NBA Finals legends that also includes Antetokounmpo in this series. Unlike Game 4, he got plenty of scoring help. His Suns teammates shot 11 of 15 on 3-pointers and 31 of 54 from the field. The Suns won the turnover battle after losing it by 12 on Wednesday, and they were far more competitive on the glass than they had been all series.
But they just couldn't get stops when they needed them. To some extent, they can't really be blamed for that. Milwaukee had been shooting 31 percent from behind the arc in Games 2-4. Phoenix has sacrificed those looks for most of the series, and the Bucks hit 50 percent of them in Game 5. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were lethal in isolation, and Antetokounmpo remains unstoppable near the basket. The Suns could have withstood some of those factors working against them. They just couldn't handle all of them.
The result was a loss that, if they end up losing this series, will haunt them for years to come. No matter how it happens, there is no excuse for blowing a 16-point home lead in less than five minutes. Phoenix did it, and it might end up amount to letting more than just this game go. It might end up costing them the championship.