Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo decimated the Phoenix Suns with a 41-point performance and led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 120-100 victory in Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Finals to get back into the series after falling into a 2-0 hole. Suns fans were lamenting the assignment of official Scott Foster, who worked Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and who has a long-standing feud with Chris Paul and numerous veterans.
The Bucks cut the Suns’ lead in half and now only trail 2-1 in the NBA Finals with Game 4 slated for Wednesday evening in Milwaukee.
Oddsmakers opened the betting line for Game 4 with the Bucks as the -4 favorite. The Bucks are looking to even the series, while the Suns want to slam the door on any comeback attempt and pull ahead 3-1 with Game 5 slated for next weekend in Phoenix.
With 41 points and 16 rebounds in Game 3, Antetokounmpo posted back-to-back 40-point double-doubles, which had only been achieved twice before in NBA history by LeBron James in 2016 and Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. In Game 2 in Phoenix, Antetokounmpo scored 42 points in a blowout loss.
Antetokounmpo scored 23 of his game-high 41 points in the second half. He also shot 13-for-17 from the free-throw line in front of his hometown fans. He didn’t have to hear the booming chants of opposing fans in Phoenix counting how long it took him to take a free throw.
“We knew what kind of game this was going to be,” said Antetokounmpo. “We knew that if we lose the game you’re in the hole.”
Jrue Holiday added 21 points and nine assists while shutting down Devin Booker. “We all hate to lose, and know the ultimate goal,” said Holiday.
Bobby Portis provided a big boost for the Bucks off the bench in the first half with nine points and six rebounds in just 10 minutes of action. He’d finish the night with 11 points and eight rebounds. The Bucks tend to live and die by the 3-pointer. They were outgunned in Game 2 from beyond the arc, but won the long-range battle with 14 treys versus nine from the Suns.
The Suns looked halfway decent in the first quarter and jumped out to a modest three-point lead. However, the Bucks were propelled by a 10-0 run late in the second quarter and took a 15-point lead heading into halftime.
After Jae Crowder tried to get the Suns back in the game with a barrage of three-point bombs, the Suns went cold once again in the third quarter. The Bucks unleashed a 16-0 run to end the third frame and surged ahead with a 22-point lead. The Suns failed to launch a counterattack in the fourth quarter and they lost their first game of the NBA Finals in a 20-point beatdown.
Booker posted his worst performance in his brief postseason history with 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting, including a dismal 1-for-7 from 3-point range.
“I said it after last game — the Bucks are not going to give in,” added Booker. “They’re going to keep playing all the way through. We have to bring that same effort that we had in the first two games and I think we’ll be in good shape.”
After scoring 27 points in Game 2, the Bucks held Mikal Bridges to just four points. Chris Paul led the Suns with 19 points in the loss. The only highlight for the Suns in Game 3 was Cam Johnson’s insane dunk over PJ Tucker.
Scott Foster: NBA conspiracy theory
There’s no shortage of NBA conspiracy theories floating around the internet, especially when it comes to the NBA playoffs. Lest we forget, the NBA Playoffs is a television show after all. The ratings for the 2021 NBA Finals have been dismal without LeBron James attracting viewers. The last thing NBA suits and their corporate partners want is a four-game sweep.
Enter Scott Foster.
The NBA has always had a “henchman” in their officiating pool. Someone who will tow the company line and make sure the playoffs follow a ratings-bonanza narrative. In the 1980s, it was Ed Rush who played the role of the NBA’s bag man. During the 1990s, Dick Bavetta and his crew pushed along the NBA’s modus operandi. In the 2000s, Joey Crawford was the most-hated zebra in the NBA’s ranks.
In the 2010s, Foster is the guy that players and coaches universally loathe.
Foster and CP3’s frosty relationship
Paul’s teams were 0-11 in the last 11 games in which Foster officiated prior to the NBA Finals. Foster and Paul have a long-standing beef dating back to Paul’s stint with the Houston Rockets. Paul thinks Foster sucks at his job, while Foster has an ego the size of Shaq.
With Foster on the court in the NBA Finals, the Suns and Paul didn’t have a chance. The Bucks outshot the Suns 26 to 16 in free-throw attempts. At first glance, it looks like just some old-fashioned, home-team cooking. Yet, Antetokounmpo went to the charity stripe 17 times and personally took more free throws than the entire Suns team (16).
“I’m not going to get into the complaining publicly about fouls,” said Suns head coach Monty Williams. “Not going to do that. But you can look. We had 16 free throws tonight. One person had 17.”
Deandre Ayton, the Suns’ big man, got into foul trouble, which left the middle wide open without their top rim protector. Due to the well-publicized history between Foster and Paul, it was fairly obvious what went down in Game 3.
Let that be a stiff lesson to gamblers. Make sure you know the officiating assignments before you fire away at a bet. If Foster suits up for any more games in the NBA Finals, it will be difficult to ignore the stats: Paul and his teams are now 0-12 when Foster works a game.
“Make sure Scott Foster is a ref for game 3. We can’t have the Bucks get swept” pic.twitter.com/ZbLzf6e3GL
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) July 11, 2021
Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA playoffs.