Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points, including a clinching slam dunk in the final seconds, and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Phoenix 123-119 on Saturday to move within one win of their first NBA title since 1971.
Khris Middleton added 29 points and Jrue Holiday contributed 27 points and 13 assists for the visiting Bucks, who seized a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals with game six on Tuesday in Milwaukee.
With the Suns seeking a go-ahead basket in the dying seconds, Holiday stole the ball from Phoenix’s Devin Booker and made an alley-oop pass to Antetokounmpo for a slam dunk and Middleton added a final free throw to seal the Suns’ fate.
“One game away,” Holiday said. “We can’t get too high on the horse. We know the last game is the hardest to win. We know they will come out and play desperate. We’ve got to do the same thing.”
A seventh game, if necessary, would be played Thursday at Phoenix.
The Bucks could become only the fifth team in NBA Finals history to win the crown after dropping the first two games.
Teams winning game five to take a 3-2 edge in the finals have won the title 72% of the time, 21 of 29 in all.
Middleton, who finished with seven rebounds and five assists, scored 11 points in the third quarter and Antetokounmpo added eight to lift the Bucks ahead 100-90 entering the fourth.
The Bucks, who fell behind by 16 points after the first quarter, stretched their lead as large as 14 points before the Suns rallied.
Booker, who scored a game-high 40 points, hit a layup and a 3-pointer and Chris Paul followed with a layup to pull the Suns within 120-119.
Booker rebounded a Holiday miss only to have Holiday make the steal and the lob to Greek star Antetokounmpo for the jam.
“Big time steal by Holiday and great pass,” Antetokounmpo said. “He trusted me, threw the ball up there. It was a great play by Holiday.”
Holiday, who rebounded from 4-of-20 shooting in game four to hit 12-of-20 in game five, knew Booker wanted the big shot.
“We knew he wanted to ball and wanted to take that last shot,” Holiday said. “He turned right to me. I got the steal. Giannis was screaming for it and I threw it as high as I could.
“I do want to score but that’s not the most important thing. I want to make it hard for them defensively.”
The Bucks need only one more win to end a half-century title drought.
“We’ve got to keep playing good basketball and hopefully we can get a win,” Antetokounmpo said.
Antetokounmpo, who had nine rebounds and six assists, said it was the game the Bucks had awaited when all three of their big stars had impressive games.
“It was the game for us to get going, all three of us,” he said. “It was a great game for us. We went down 16, we kept our composure and we came back to win.”
Seeing the Suns squandering the big lead was painful for Booker.
“We came out and did what we intended to do and we let it go,” Booker said. “They stayed with it and played resilient. Tough loss.”
Paul had 21 points and 11 assists for Phoenix while Bahamas big man Deandre Ayton had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
– Bucks answer Suns start –
Phoenix sank 10 consecutive shots and seized a 27-16 lead while the Bucks committed five turnovers, matching their game-four total, in the first eight minutes.
The Suns made 14-of-19 shots in the opening quarter, stretching their lead to 37-21, with Booker scoring 11 points and Crowder and Ayton each adding eight in the period.
Milwaukee answered with a 21-5 run to open the second quarter. Holiday had nine points and Pat Connaughton sank a 3-pointer to equalize at 42-42 only 4:12 into the period.
The Bucks made 17-of-24 shots in the second quarter in seizing a 64-61 half-time lead.