Suns vs. Bucks takeaways: Chris Paul makes NBA history; Phoenix escapes with overtime win after late foul call

by Ryan

On paper, the Monday night matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns had all the makings of a must-watch event. In actuality, it was even better than anyone could have expected, as the Suns escaped with a thrilling overtime win, 128-127.

It was a slightly controversial ending, however, as Devin Booker drew a foul with 0.3 seconds to play in overtime, then hit one free throw to ice the game. He finished with 24 points to lead the Suns in the scoring department, while Chris Paul went for 22 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists. In the process, he passed Magic Johnson for fifth place on the all-time assists list. 

On the Bucks’ side, Giannis Antetokounmpo went for 33 points and eight rebounds in a typically strong performance, but he wasn’t on the floor to close things out. He went down with what appeared to be a cramp in his lower leg at the beginning of overtime and wasn’t able to return. 

Here are three key takeaways from the game

1. Disappointing ending to one of the best games of the season

Monday night’s matchup was a true battle. There were a whopping 24 lead changes and 16 ties, and neither team led by more than nine points for the entire game. Big-name players on both teams were making big game plays on both ends of the floor. It was everything you’d want from a game, right up until the very end.

After Khris Middleton hit a 3 with just over 20 seconds to play, the Suns had the ball and a chance to win the game. They decided to put the ball in Devin Booker’s hands and just cleared out so he could go to work. But with Jrue Holiday playing some lock-down defense, Booker was having a tough time getting anything going.

Eventually, he dribbled to the wing and tried to do a little step-back move to create space. It worked, sort of, though mostly because Holiday briefly lost his balance. As Holiday tried to recover, PJ Tucker arrived with the help just as Booker rose up for a shot. Tucker’s elbow grazed Booker’s elbow, and the ref called a foul. Booker hit one free throw, missed the second on purpose, and that was the game. 

A brutal ending for the Bucks and for everyone watching. Tucker’s arm does make contact with Booker’s arm in the shooting motion, so technically it is a foul. There’s really no way around that. It’s just, no one wants to see an awesome game end that way. 

2. CP3 makes history

Chris Paul started out the game on a scoring binge, putting up 11 points in the first quarter. But as the game wore on he settled into more of a facilitation role, and eventually racked up 13 assists on the night. That gave him 10,145 for his career, which moved him past Magic Johnson and into fifth place on the NBA‘s all-time assists list. He’s the only active player in the top-five, and one of only two active players in the top-10 — LeBron James being the other. 

The history-making feed came late in the fourth quarter when Paul spotted Booker running out in transition. It was one of the easiest assists he’ll ever have, as he just tossed an outlet pass into Booker’s stride for a wide-open dunk. 

What else is there to say about Paul at this point? He’s an incredible leader and one of the best point guards ever. Just look at the impact he’s had on this Suns team, turning them from a laughingstock to a Western Conference contender in his first season with the team. 

Phoenix has now won five of its last six games to improve to 41-16 on the season. In those six games, he has 59 assists and three turnovers. 

3. Giannis does his thing but leaves with cramps

Giannis Antetokounmpo missed six games earlier this month with a knee injury, so it was a scary moment when he went down grimacing in pain early in overtime. After rising up to block Devin Booker, he grabbed the loose ball and tried to make his way up the floor before collapsing near the team’s bench.

The good news is it turned out to be a cramp in his lower leg. The way he was stretching and chugging Gatorade on the sidelined made that pretty clear, and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer confirmed as much during his postgame press conference. But while there shouldn’t be any long-term issues there, the Bucks didn’t feel comfortable bringing him back in the game.

As a result, the Bucks had to play the final 4:02 without the Greek Freak. That looked to be a major issue when they immediately went down by six points, but some clutch 3s from Middleton and Tucker tied things up and nearly sent the game to double-overtime. It’s not clear if Giannis could have come back if there was another frame, but Budenholzer’s comments suggest the answer is no.

For the night, Giannis finished with 33 points and eight rebounds in what was by far his best performance since returning from injury. Cramps and loss aside, that was a major positive for the Bucks on Monday night. 

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