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 on Thursday night to take a 2-0 series lead.
The Suns surged ahead late in the first half, withstood Giannis Antetokounmpo’s all-around effort to bring the Bucks back, and walked off winners again as fans swung orange rally towels all around them.
Antetokounmpo had 42 points and 12 rebounds in his second game back after missing two games because of a hyperextended left knee.
The Suns never even had a 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 didn’t win more than two games in either series.
They’ve already got two this time and will go after a third Sunday in Milwaukee, which will host the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.
Booker made seven 3-pointers and the Suns went 20 for 40 behind the arc. Mikal Bridges scored 27 points, and Paul finished with eight assists.
Jrue Holiday played more aggressively but didn’t shoot a whole lot 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 up to the Bucks having to overcome a 2-0 deficit for the second time this postseason. They did it against the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but had some help when first James Harden and then Kyrie Irving were injured.
Now they are facing a Suns team loaded with weapons all over the lineup, and showed off all of them in the prettiest play of this series.
They whipped the ball all around the perimeter for the final 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 then finally fed it inside to Deandre Ayton, who scored while being fouled with 14.9 seconds left for a 56-45 lead at the break.
The Bucks could only dream of having that many guys involved. Antetokounmpo’s 15 field goals were more than twice as many as any other Milwaukee player.