The Milwaukee Bucks walked into one of the toughest places to play in the NBA on Tuesday, snatched the lead from the Phoenix Suns midway through the fourth quarter and then closed with a flourish to earn a 116-104 victory.
That is not easy to do, but the Bucks made it look easy. That is exactly why they became the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season, as well as the first team to reach to 50 wins this season.
“We just have a good balance on our team,” Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said. “At any given moment, somebody can explode.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo provided his usual scoring with 36 points, while Brook Lopez added 21. The Bucks have won 21 of their past 23 games in an impressive two-month run. The Suns have dropped three straight.
“We just mentioned it in the coaches’ locker room to appreciate this,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Making the playoffs in this league is hard. You should never take anything for granted.”
“We are good. We are in a good place right now. We got to keep on learning, staying humble,” Antetokounmpo said.
The Suns trailed by nine points at halftime, but cut the deficit to 85-84 heading into the fourth after Devin Booker hit a mid-range jumper at the third-quarter buzzer.
Cam Payne hit back-to-back three-pointers to put the Suns up 90-87, which was their first lead of the second half. The game stayed tight for the next several minutes, but the Bucks took the lead for good when Pat Connaughton hit a corner three for a 100-97 advantage with 6 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
Antetokounmpo added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Lopez shot 10 of 14 from the field and added 10 rebounds. The Bucks closed the game on a 24-9 run.
Booker led the Suns with 30 points on 13-of-27 shooting. Deandre Ayton had 19 points and eight rebounds, despite playing just 26 minutes because of foul trouble.
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