The Milwaukee Bucks earned the first road win of these Finals in a thrilling Game 5, putting them one win away from the franchise's first NBA title since 1971.
The Suns, who led 2-0 in the series before dropping three straight, will have to get the job done on the road in Milwaukee if they're going to bring things back to Phoenix for a winner-take-all Game 7.
Can the Suns keep their title hopes alive or will the Bucks close things out and win the NBA title?
Here's a few things to watch for in Game 6.
Which Chris Paul will we see?
Paul's first-career NBA Finals has been a rollercoaster ride.
The veteran floor general was remarkable during the Suns' run to the championship round, averaging 18.1 points, 8.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals while committing fewer than two turnovers per game - an impressive mark for someone who handles the rock as much as he does.
Over his 14 games played from the start of the first round until the series-clinching Game 6 of the Conference Finals, Paul had two or fewer turnovers 12 (!) times. In six of those 14 games, he didn't cough up the ball more than once. With an astonishing assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.55, Paul was making everything happen for Phoenix offensively, making sure his team got the most out of every possession.
It appeared the Finals were going to be more of the same following Game 1, where Paul picked Milwaukee apart to the tune of 32 points and nine assists with two turnovers. But from that point forward, the Bucks have ramped up the defensive pressure and Paul has been giving the ball away at an uncharacteristic rate.
Despite the Game 2 victory, CP3 had six turnovers, by far his most of the playoffs. He continued that trend on the road, with four turnovers in Game 3 and five turnovers in Game 4, both losses for the Suns. He tidied things up in Game 6's loss with 11 assists to just one turnover, but he hasn't been able to make as much of an impact as earlier in the postseason.
Paul has turned the ball over 18 times in the Finals, compared to 22 times over the first three rounds of the playoffs combined.
Jrue Holiday's physical defence has certainly played a role, but Paul is still averaging 21.0 points while shooting 54.3 percent from the field and 52.4 percent from 3 in the Finals. Something interesting to note, though: Paul hasn't attempted a free throw since Game 3, which was a consistent source of offence for a player who converted 90.6 percent of his attempts from the line through the first three rounds.
If the Suns are going to keep this series alive, they will need a version of Paul that is closer to the one who had 41 points, eight assists and zero turnovers to close out the LA Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, or even the version of him we saw in Game 1 of the Finals. Either way, Paul will have to shine to keep his title hopes afloat.
The Bucks' Big 3
NBA.com's Gilbert McGregor already wrote on this in detail, but the Bucks' Big 3 has been prolific over this three-game win streak.
In the pivotal Game 5 victory, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday combined for 88 points, 24 assists and 20 rebounds. Holiday and Antetokounmpo capped the game off with what could be the signature moment of the Finals...
JRUE STEAL. GIANNIS DUNK!!! pic.twitter.com/O0KhiXILBV- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 18, 2021
...but Middleton knocked down countless big shots in the fourth quarter.
MONEY MIDDLETON. pic.twitter.com/J6cTym3yHq- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 18, 2021
When you include the points created by assists, the trio was responsible for 115 of Milwaukee's 123 points in Game 5, which is just downright ridiculous.
It has been quite the bounce back for Middleton and Holiday since their slow start to the series.
|Holiday in Games 1 & 2||13.5||31.4||14.3||6.0||8.0||1.0|
|Holiday in Games 3, 4 & 5||20.3||44.4||38.1||5.3||9.7||2.3|
|Middleton in Games 1 & 2||20.0||40.5||33.3||6.5||6.0||1.0|
|Middleton in Games 3, 4 & 5||29.0||47.1||39.1||6.7||5.0||1.0|
With Antetokounmpo averaging an unstoppable 32.2 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 61.2 percent from the field in these Finals, it's safe to assume the two-time MVP is going to get his no matter what.
The Suns' key to extending this series will be containing Middleton and Holiday in a similar fashion to the first two games.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.