Khris Middleton’s 40s Raise Dollars on Devin Booker, Suns

MILWAUKEE – Khris Middleton earned his nickname in Game 4 of the NBA Finals as “Cash Money” appeared in the biggest game of his life.

After consecutive 40-point efforts from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton became the savior of the Bucks with a career-high playoff high of 40 to eclipse Suns goalie Devin Booker’s 42 points.

“Towards the end of the fourth quarter, we just made sets that got me into my places,” said Middleton. “After that, I just have to do some readings. Luckily, I got a few hits.”

Middleton scored 10 straight points and the Milwaukee Bucks came out of a nine-point deficit to win Game 4, 109-103, to tie the Phoenix Suns at 2-2 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

Middleton made the cash games in the final two minutes with a bizarre nod to Antetokounmpo, whose Deandre Ayton block held the Bucks lead to four points with 1:15 to go.

For most of the night, only fouls stopped Booker. The Suns’ top scorer scored 42 points despite being chased for most of the second half by fouls. Booker’s effort was his ninth game in these playoffs with over 30 points. He had 10 points on 3 of 14 shots in Game 3.

“It’s a state of mind more than anything,” Booker said.

Phoenix shot 51.3% from the field and kept the Bucks at 40.2%.

It was Booker who lobbed the ball to Ayton on Antetokounmpo’s incredible defensive play. The pass was wide off the edge and Ayton did not pick it up cleanly.

“Just a fuss game,” Antetokounmpo said. “At the end of the course – do whatever it takes to win the game. I saw the game come up. I was there on time, I was able to get a good block and go down and score two points.”

Sun head coach Monty Williams believes Booker would have scored 50 points if Phoenix knocked out “even five” of his 17 turnovers.

“He’s hitting tough, contested shots,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Booker’s Game 4. “I think we just have to keep making him work for everything. Maybe we can make a few late saves. Rebound game, exactly what we expected.”

Antetokounmpo delayed more than usual and had 26 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and two blocks.

With Antetokounmpo largely in check beyond Second Chance points, Middleton attempted 33 shots.

“It’s kind of a mental toughness victory for us,” Budenholzer said.

It was all Middleton in the home stretch for Milwaukee. He made four free throws after hitting in a contested southpaw layup, which followed two contested jumpers in a clutch effort that left the booker to play the runner-up.

Cam Johnson had 10 points off the bench for the Suns, who got just 38 points overall against their four other starters.

“We’re two good teams. We’re 2-2,” Williams said as Phoenix came home for Game 5 on Saturday. “That’s the deal. We’re putting ourselves in that position. We have home advantage.”

Booker hit 40 points to tie the game at 97, responding to Pat Connaughton’s corner 3 on the other end.

“I don’t count the hits. I let the hits come to me and I take them,” Middleton said. “I don’t really count stats or shots until the end of the game.”

Paul had 10 points, seven assists and five turnovers. Ayton had six points and 17 rebounds for Phoenix.

Paul averages 4.3 turnovers per game in the final.

“You can’t just rely on the fact that you have a home field, you have to go out there and play the game,” Paul said. “You always have to perform. We tend to react well. We know what we have to do. Be better.”

A lagging Antetokounmpo secured the failure of Jrue Holiday – game team manager James Capers said the post-match should have been Booker’s sixth foul – and fell in an easy two that brought the score to 95-94 with 3:30 to go.

Booker went to the bench when he was whistled for his fifth foul on an aggressive box-out from PJ Tucker with 10:47 left in the game and came back at 5:55.

As the Bucks tried three different defenders ahead of him, Booker scored 18 in the third quarter and made all seven of his shooting attempts.

The ragged execution and stagnant offense – a field goal in their first 10 second-half attempts – threatened to wipe Milwaukee out of the picture in the third. But Phoenix’s turnovers kept the game within reach of the Bucks, even as the Suns jumped on a 9-3 streak to end the period.

Booker scored a high 20 points in the first half on 8 of 15 shots, and Middleton led Milwaukee with 16.

–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media

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