Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue does not understand the criticism of Paul George after the star helped the team avoid elimination from the NBA playoffs with a 116-102 win over the Phoenix Suns.

George scored a career postseason-high 41 points, including 30 in the second half, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals as the Clippers stayed alive in the postseason series on Monday.

The 31-year-old stepped up when the Clippers were challenged in the third quarter, with second-seeded Phoenix hitting the lead briefly, as George hit back with 20 third-quarter points.

George became the first player in Clippers history to record 40-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in a postseason game, while also becoming the first player in NBA history to have 40-plus points on at least 75 per cent field-goal shooting, 50 per cent three-point shooting and 100 free-throw shooting in a playoff contest.

HE is also the third player since the 1996-97 since to score 30-plus points on 80 per cent shooting or better in the second half of a postseason game, joining Anthony Davis (2020) and Dwyane Wade (2010).

George has been criticised in the past and has missed some key free-throws against the Suns, but he has been the Clippers' top scorer in all five games this series in the absence of Kawhi Leonard (knee), while he led all three categories – points, rebounds and assists, for the second successive game for the fourth seeds.

"I just don't understand why it's magnified so much when he has a bad game, when he doesn't play well," Lue said during his post-game news conference.

"A lot of people play bad. Like I said, I'm just happy he came back, played a great game, we needed every bit of it."

George has put up at least 20 points in all 18 games he has played this season. The only other players in NBA history to have at least 20 points in their first 18 games of a single playoff campaign are Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.

Lue added: "That's what great players do. You always bounce back, if you have a rough game.

"Our team needed it… We fed off Marcus' [Morris Snr] momentum in the first half. Every time they made a run, we responded."

The Clippers have already come from behind to win two series this postseason, triumphing 4-3 over the Dallas Mavericks after trailing 2-0, while they won four straight games against the top-seeded Utah Jazz, having been down 2-0.

Lue and the Clippers would need to win three straight games to overcome the Suns, having trailed 3-1 but they can level the series in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

A championship-winning coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lue moved to a 10-2 coaching record when his side is facing elimination, but preferred to focus on his players who he labelled "resilient".

"It's been all season long," Lue said. "Guys have been out, different guys are stepping up and playing well.

"I keep saying the same word resilient but this group is. We got a gritty win without three starters, we gotta do it again two more times."

He added: "It is fun. I was just talking to our team about not winning three games but winning each quarter. The journey is too long if you think about three games, six days. I thought our guys came out with that mindset, we won three of four quarters."

Paul George posted a playoff career-high 41 points as the Los Angeles Clippers avoided elimination with a 116-102 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.

George flexed his muscles away from home on Monday and in the absence of star team-mate Kawhi Leonard, scoring 30 second-half points to keep the series alive against the second-seeded Suns.

The win means the Clippers, who have come from behind to triumph in their past two playoffs series, trail the Suns 3-2 in the matchup ahead of Game 6 back in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

George and the Clippers had led at half-time for the first time in the series, up 59-52, but the Suns earned a 62-61 lead before the visitors launched a 10-0 run and never looked back.

Clippers star George entered the must-win game as the fourth player in NBA history to score 20-plus points in each of his first 17 games of a single postseason, joining Michael Jordan (1991, 1992, 1997, 1998), Kobe Bryant (2008) and Kevin Durant (2012 and 2018).

George also had 13 rebounds and six assists, dominating for the fourth-seeded Clippers, who were without injured pair Leonard and Ivica Zubac.

The Clippers continued their resilient playoff campaign, having trailed 2-0 against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round before winning 4-3, while they won four games in a row against the top-seeded Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semi-finals, having fallen 2-0 behind.

The Suns refused to surrender, with Devin Booker scoring 31 points and Chris Paul contributing 22 of his own, but the Clippers always had an answer to silence the home crowd.

George, who shot 15-from-20 from the field for the game, had good support from Reggie Jackson (23 points, including four three-pointers), while Marcus Morris Sr. finished with 22 points after scoring 20 in the first half.

The Clippers dominated with 34-8 first-half points in the paint and 58-32 for the game.

Suns center Deandre Ayton could not capitalise on Zubac's absence, only managing 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Paul missed all six three-point attempts for Phoenix, while he had eight assists.

 

Bucks at Hawks

The Milwaukee Bucks can claim a 3-1 lead over the Atlanta Hawks when they visit State Farm Arena for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young is questionable for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals as he deals with bone bruising in his right foot.

Young hurt his ankle in the third quarter of Sunday's 113-102 defeat as the Milwaukee Bucks claimed a 2-1 series lead in the NBA playoffs.

Hawks guard Young suffered the freak injury when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

Young hobbled off and was taken to the locker room to get his injury assessed, but was able to return to the court early in the fourth quarter.

The 22-year-old was able to post 35 points in a losing effort at home to the third-seeded Bucks, who were fuelled by Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

He began the series last week by scoring 48 points and 11 assists as the Hawks took Game 1 in Milwaukee.

Young tied Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James (2007) and Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant (2001) for the most points scored in a playoff game in NBA history before turning 23 years old.

The 2020 All-Star (22 years and 277 days) also became the second youngest player in league history to record 45-plus points and 10-plus assists in a postseason game, with Luka Doncic (22 years and 98 days) the youngest to do so.

Young's 48 points were also the third most scored in a playoff game in Hawks history, behind only Bob Pettit (50 in 1958) and Dominique Wilkins (50 in 1986).

In Game 2, Young was held to 15 points but bounced back with 35 in the third game, going six for 14 from three-point range, taking his points per game for the week to 32.67, way up on his already impressive average of 25.3 from the regular season.

Jason Kidd is excited at the prospect of working with Luka Doncic and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks roster after he was confirmed as the franchise's new head coach.

Kidd is no stranger to Dallas, having had two spells with the team during his illustrious playing career. The Mavs drafted him in 1994 and following his departure to the Phoenix Suns two years later, he returned as part of an eight-player trade in 2008.

The 10-time All-Star won the NBA title in 2011 while working under Rick Carlisle, the head coach he has now replaced at the Mavs.

"Dallas has meant so much to me as a player and I want to thank Mark Cuban for the opportunity to return as a head coach," Kidd said.

"I am excited to get to work with this young, hungry and incredibly talented team and to continue to build a winning legacy for the Mavericks organisation."

Kidd, previously head coach at both the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks, leaves his role as an assistant at the Los Angeles Lakers – where he won a championship last season - to take charge in Dallas.

He boasts a 49.1 per cent win rate when serving as head coach in the NBA and was tipped for the Mavericks job by Carlisle, who left the team after 13 years at the helm.

Kidd sits second in the all-time list for assists (12,091) and steals (2,684), behind only John Stockton in both categories.

"We are excited to welcome J-Kidd and his family back to Dallas," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said.

"He possesses a winning mentality that carried him through a hall of fame career as a player and has helped him successfully transition to the NBA's coaching ranks.

"We are eager for him to get to work and lead our franchise and talented young players into the future."

The Mavs - who lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs for a second successive year - have also announced the appointment of Nico Harrison as general manager and head of basketball operations.

We could soon know who will be fighting it out for the NBA title, with both Conference Finals in danger of being decided emphatically.

The Phoenix Suns have surged into a 3-1 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers, while title favourites the Milwaukee Bucks have recovered from a Game 1 loss to the Atlanta Hawks to lead 2-1.

The coming week will decide who will face off for the Larry O'Brien Trophy and, in this edition of Heat Check, Stats Perform looks at which players are on form heading into the decisive matchups, as well as those who need to step up.


RUNNING HOT

Reggie Jackson - Los Angeles Clippers

With Kawhi Leonard showing no sign of making a return from a knee injury that has kept him out for the past six games, the Clippers need players to improve if they are to save their season.

Los Angeles face an elimination game on Monday in the Western Conference Finals, but they can take heart from what Jackson has done in Leonard's absence.

Jackson has scored at least 20 points in five of the last six games, including a 27-point performance in the Game 7 win over the Utah Jazz.

He averaged 20.67 points per game last week, exactly 10 points more than he did in the regular season. The Clippers must have another big effort from him in Game 5.

Deandre Ayton - Phoenix Suns

Ayton enjoyed one of the defining moments of these playoffs with his game-winning alley-oop in Game 2 of the Conference Finals. He is blossoming into the star center the Suns thought they were getting when Phoenix selected him first overall in 2018.

His dramatic final basket in the second game capped a superb performance in which he produced 24 points and 14 rebounds.

Not content with just one double-double, Ayton produced another in Game 4, putting up 19 points and tallying 22 rebounds.

Over the course of the three matchups last week, Ayton recorded 20.33 points and 15 rebounds per game, both significant increases on his averages of 14.15 points and 10.54 rebounds in the regular season. No wonder Ayton has received such effusive praise from team-mate Chris Paul.

Trae Young - Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks' hopes of upsetting the odds once more against the Bucks hang in the balance with star point guard Trae Young having been diagnosed with a bone bruise, making him questionable for Game 4.

If he is ruled out, it will be a great shame as Young has played phenomenally in the playoffs, including making a superb start to the Eastern Conference Finals.

He began the series last week by scoring an astonishing 48 points as the Hawks took Game 1 in Milwaukee.

Young was held to 15 in Game 2 but bounced back with 35 in the third game, going six for 14 from three-point range, taking his points per game for the week to 32.67, way up on his already impressive average of 25.3 from the regular season.

GOING COLD...

Bogdan Bogdanovic - Atlanta Hawks

Young's presence is even more important given one of Atlanta's secondary scoring threats is having to fight through a knee injury.

Bogdanovic has continued to battle knee soreness and the impact on his play has been obvious.

He averaged over 16 points a game in the regular season, but has put up only 6.67 so far in this series.

The Hawks may need him to produce more amid the pain to improve their odds of stunning the Bucks.

Clint Capela - Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks also haven't quite got the desired production they desire from center Capela.

That may be a slightly unfair statement given that Capela has tallied double-digit rebounds in two of the three games in the series, including a double-double in the Hawks' opening win.

Yet in terms of putting up points, his output has disappointed in comparison with his regular-season numbers. Tallies of 12, two and eight give him a per-game average of 7.33 that is in stark contrast to the 15.17 he delivered in helping the Hawks clinch the fifth seed in the East.

In a series with a Bucks team whose leading lights are firing on all cylinders, that isn't going to cut it.

Paul George - Los Angeles Clippers

With the Clippers competing in a place in their first Finals without Leonard, it is a bad time for George to go cold from deep.

Having made 3.17 threes per game in the regular season, George was off the mark from beyond the arc in three games against the Suns last week.

He made an average of 1.67 threes per game, hitting on one triple in two contests, including the Game 4 loss that has put the Clippers on the brink of elimination.

George simply must rediscover his aim to keep their season alive.

The Portland Trail Blazers have appointed Chauncey Billups as their new head coach.

Billups spent the 2020-21 NBA season as Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach and has given been the chance to take the top job at Portland.

The five-time All-Star replaces Terry Stotts, who departed after the team's elimination in the opening round of the NBA playoffs this month.

Billups, named Finals MVP when the Detroit Pistons were crowned champions in 2004, is relishing a new challenge with the Trail Blazers.

The 44-year-old said: "I'm very excited and humbled to be the next coach of the Trail Blazers.

"Portland is a special place and a unique franchise. As a player I always loved playing here because the passion and knowledge of the fans brought out the very best in me as a competitor.

"Now I'm looking forward to being on the other side of that energy and engaging with the Portland community on a whole other level.

"I want to thank Jody Allen, Bert Kolde and Neil Olshey for their trust and for giving me this incredible opportunity. And, most importantly, I want to say to the fans that I know what this team means to you, and I promise to pour every ounce into continuing to make you proud of what the Trail Blazers stand for."

 

Trail Blazers chair Allen said: "Chauncey is a proven and consistent winner with NBA championship experience as an All-Star NBA player. 

"He has demonstrated throughout his career, first as a player, and currently as an assistant coach a unique ability to lead. We are very happy to welcome him to Portland."

Billups played 17 seasons in the NBA for Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit, New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Trae Young hopes to be fit for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals after the Atlanta Hawks star suffered a freak injury in a 113-102 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.

The point guard sprained his right ankle late in the third quarter when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

Young hobbled off and was taken to the locker room to get his injury assessed, but was able to return to the court early in the fourth quarter.

The 22-year-old's movement was restricted when he was returned and he will undergo a scan on Monday after doing damage in a game he finished with 35 points - a tally only bettered by Khris Middleton.

Young said following the defeat: "It's sore right now. It's hurting, it's frustrating. It's hurting a little bit and it's sore.

"I got some treatment on it. I'm going to go get some more in the morning. That's all I can do right now, is to get treatment."

Young said he had not spotted official Wright, who was out of bounds when he stepped on him.

"I didn't see him. I guess I’ve got to have eyes in the back of my head now to see who's behind me," he added.

 

Hawks coach Nate McMillan withdrew Young with a minute to go and is unsure if he will be able to call upon such a key man in Game 4 on Tuesday.

"I don't know right now," McMillan said when asked if Young will be fit. "When he returned to the floor, he was obviously limping on that [ankle]. When I subbed for him, we just decided to keep him out."

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 33 points and 11 rebounds and Middleton put up a game-high 38 points and 11 rebounds for the third-seeded Bucks.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he witnessed "greatness" after Khris Middleton led the Milwaukee Bucks past the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

While Antetokounmpo posted 33 points and 11 rebounds, Middleton fuelled the Bucks with a monster fourth quarter in Sunday's 113-102 NBA playoff victory away to the Hawks.

Middleton scored 20 of his career high-tying 38 points in the final period, singlehandedly outscoring the Hawks (17), to help give the third-seeded Bucks a 2-1 series lead.

After Middleton's big display, which also included 11 rebounds, seven assists and six three-pointers on 15-for-26 shooting, it was the second time ever a Bucks player had a 30/10/5/5-three playoff game. The first was also Middleton.

Bucks superstar and two-time MVP Antetokounmpo hailed Middleton post-game.

"What he did today was unreal," Antetokounmpo said. "He was unbelievable. Carried the team at the end. ... What I saw today was greatness. Simple as that."

"He turned the ball over like two times and after that he was locked in. Like, 'Pass me the ball,' and we gave him the ball. ... We know when to set screens for him, we know when he wants the ball, and that was the moment.

"We were like, 'Get the hell out of the way, get him the ball, take us home Khris.' And that's what he did."

Of two-time All-Star Middleton, Antetokounmpo added: "The day you retire is going to be the toughest day of my career.

"He's special for a reason and he showed it tonight."

Middleton said: "I just finally got them to go. I've been struggling some with the ball going in the basket. Finally they started dropping for me at the right time. I'm thankful for that."

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer also lauded Middleton as attention turns to Tuesday's Game 4 in Atlanta.

"Just being around him a lot, he starts to see it go in, he starts to feel good, he gets in a rhythm, he can score different ways.

"He and Giannis in a two-man game, it's a tough choice. So huge fourth quarter. I think he had 20 in the fourth quarter and yeah, just glad he's on our side."

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton led the way with dominant double-doubles as the Milwaukee Bucks overpowered the Atlanta Hawks 113-102 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Antetokounmpo posted 33 points and 11 rebounds and Middleton put up a game-high 38 points and 11 rebounds to lead the third-seeded Bucks to a 2-1 series lead in the NBA playoffs on Sunday.

The Hawks led 85-83 at the end of the third quarter before Middleton took matters into his own hands in the final period.

Middleton outscored the entire Hawks team in the fourth quarter – 20-17 – as the Bucks used a 30-17 period to seize control of the matchup.

After Middleton's big display, which also included seven assists and six three-pointers on 15-for-26 shooting, it is the second time ever a Bucks player has had a 30/10/5/5-three playoff game. The first was also Middleton.

As for two-time MVP Antetokounmpo, he joined Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players with 10-plus 30/10 games in a single postseason since 1963.

Trae Young huffed and puffed with 35 points and four assists, but the fifth-seeded Hawks lost to the Bucks on home court in Atlanta.

Hawks star Young entered the contest with 61 assists across five home games in the 2021 playoffs (12.2 per game). The last player to have 60-plus assists in their first five career home postseason games was Chris Paul in 2008 (67).

 

Clippers at Suns

The Phoenix Suns can clinch a spot in the NBA Finals with victory at home to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Monday.

 

If the Los Angeles Clippers are to fend off elimination, they will have to do so without injured star Kawhi Leonard in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.

The Clippers trail the second-seeded Phoenix Suns 3-1 in the NBA playoffs and Leonard remains sidelined due to a sprained right knee heading into Monday's must-win showdown.

Leonard has endured an injury-hit postseason, having not played since Game 4 of the Conference semi-finals against the top-ranked Utah Jazz.

In this season's playoffs, two-time NBA champion Leonard has been averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists for the fourth-seeded Clippers.

The Suns can advance to the NBA Finals with victory at home to the Clippers, who were beaten 84-80 in Game 4.

"Just taking it one game at a time," Clippers head coach Tryonn Lue told reporters on Sunday. "You can't focus on winning three. You have to focus on winning one. It starts quarter by quarter, especially playing on the road right now in Game 5.

"You have to take it quarter by quarter and try to win each quarter. That's got to be your mindset. You can't think about three games and four or five, six days from now. You have to think about tomorrow and just winning quarter by quarter. I think that's the mindset that I've got to make sure our team has going into the game tomorrow."

Tyronn Lue is confident the Los Angeles Clippers can turn around their 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals with the Phoenix Suns, describing the challenge as "very doable".

The Clippers fell to an 84-80 loss to the Suns on Saturday, leaving Los Angeles needing to win three straight games to progress to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.

In Conference Finals, teams that have led 3-1 have gone on to win a seven-game series 52 times, with that advantage reversed on just four occasions.

Falling 3-1 behind is typically a death knell for a team in any round, with teams that have claimed 3-1 leads in best-of-seven series winning 95 per cent of the time (251-13).

But Lue has experience of coming from 3-1 down to prevail, having done so as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers when they incredibly overturned that deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

The Warriors did not surrender the same lead in 2017, avenging that loss with a 4-1 Finals win over the Cavs.

Drawing inspiration from the Clippers coming from 2-0 down against the Utah Jazz in the previous round, Lue stated his belief in his team to overcome the odds.

"We beat Utah and won four games in a row," Lue said. "So it's very doable."

 

The Clippers' hopes of fighting back would be significantly boosted were Kawhi Leonard to return from a knee sprain that has seen him miss the final two games of the Jazz series and all four games with Phoenix so far.

But Paul George, who had a double-double with 23 rebounds and 16 rebounds in Game 3, does not want Leonard to rush back regardless of the Clippers' perilous situation.

"I can't speak for him, to the health of Kawhi," George said. "If he's not 100 [per cent], we don't want him out there. I mean, that's just as a brother, as a team-mate.

"His health long term is more important than what's going on now. I can't speak on the extent of his injury or, you know, what he [can] and cannot give us.

"Like I've been saying, his health is just more important than anything else."

Phoenix Suns veteran Chris Paul is refusing to talk about a drought-breaking NBA Finals appearance despite his side taking a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference finals on Saturday.

The Suns won 84-80 over the Los Angeles Clippers to move within one victory of the franchise's first Finals appearance since 1993.

Paul, 36, debuted in the NBA in 2005 and is an 11-time All Star yet has never played in an NBA Finals series either.

"Not til the job is done. We can talk about all that then but right now it's laser focus," Paul said during the post-game news conference.

"Three wins don’t win a series. We did what we came to do. We got one of these [road wins]. We've got to stay focused. We need one more [win]."

Paul has played in 12 NBA playoffs series, coming closest to the NBA Finals in 2017-18 Conference finals with the Houston Rockets having been 3-2 up.

When asked about previously falling short, Paul added: "Everything happens for a reason. Don't dwell on things. I'm here now, excited about this opportunity. All I can worry about right now is Game 5."

Paul finished with 18 points but hit several last-quarter free-throws to ice the game after Devin Booker fouled out.

"It was crazy when I went to the free-throw line, I thought about my son," he said. "I talk to my son all the time about the importance of shooting free-throws. He's really getting into basketball.

"I seriously went to the free-throw line, I thought 'how the hell am I going to tell him to stay poised, if I don't'."

Paul, who missed both Game 1 and 2 after entering into the NBA's health and safety protocol, said he was excited to play at home for the first time in the series on Monday.

"I didn’t get a chance to feel that energy in Game 1 and 2," he said. "I was at the crib with my family. I'm excited to go back to Phoenix."

The Phoenix Suns have claimed a hard-fought road win to go 3-1 up in the Western Conference finals with an 84-80 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

DeAndre Ayton was dominant in the paint with 19 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks as the Suns triumphed, leading the whole way but having to withstand a late Clippers challenge.

Devin Booker, who took his protective face mask off in the second half, led all scorers for Phoenix with 25 points but fouled out with 1:05 to go, leaving veteran guard Chris Paul (18 points and seven assists) to finish the job with a series of late free throws.

The Clippers, once again without the injured Kawhi Leonard, got within one point in the final quarter, including with 13.2 seconds to go, but never took the lead.

The result means Phoenix are one win away from qualifying for their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993. It would also be the first Finals appearance for 11-time All-Star Paul.

Phoenix had led by 14 points at half-time, but the Clippers stormed back into the game with a 30-19 third quarter.

Paul George fought hard for the Clippers with 23 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, while Reggie Jackson scored 20 points. Ivica Zubac was admirable with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

But the Clippers struggled from beyond the arc, shooting five from 31 (16.1 per cent), with Jackson hitting two-of-nine from three-point range, while George made one-from-nine.

The Suns did not fare much better from range, with Booker missing all five three-point attempts and Paul all three.

Phoenix's 84 points was the fewest in a win this season, regular or postseason.

The series returns to Phoenix on Monday, with the Suns chasing a close-out win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dismissed suggestions he should get on with it from the free-throw line after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a series-levelling win over the Atlanta Hawks.

The Eastern Conference Finals could sway on how Giannis performs over the coming games, with the teams now poised at 1-1 following the Bucks' storming 125-91 win on their home court.

The Hawks are reportedly annoyed at NBA officials ignoring Antetokounmpo repeatedly taking longer than the allotted 10 seconds at the line.

It was reported by The Athletic that Antetokounmpo took between 11.5 seconds and 13.3 seconds for each of his eight free-throw attempts in Game 1 against the Hawks.

"Usually I take eight to nine seconds. So it was borderline 10 seconds," Antetokounmpo responded on Friday night.

"When my coaching staff tells me to speed it up I know I'm maybe around 10 and sometimes the referee will talk to me and say, 'You've got to speed it up'.

"Then I make an effort to take it a second or two seconds faster. But my mindset going into this game was to do my routine, get as many dribbles as I can, get my breath and just shoot my shot."

Two-time MVP Antetokounmpo posted 25 points in 29 minutes and Jrue Holiday added 22 points of his own as the Bucks made light work of the fifth-seeded Hawks.

 

Antetokounmpo said the key for the Bucks after their 116-113 setback in Game 1 was to take a measured approach into the second clash in the series.

"I was calm, it wasn't the end of the world – if we had lost today I would have been a little bit more nervous," he said.

"I trust my team-mates, trust our habits. I think everybody's on the same page and know what we have to do. We knew we had to come in here and get this game and that's what we did.

"There's got to be some urgency, but you still have to enjoy the fact that we're here. We worked extremely hard to be one of the last four teams standing.

"We're going to try to play good basketball. The way I think about it is I'm going to be doing this for a long time so I've got to enjoy each game."

He relished the home support but added: "Also, there's an enjoyment factor when you're on the road and everyone's booing you and counting... '1, 2, 3, 4...'.

"What I do is enjoy each moment. You never know when it's going to be taken away from you, you can never take it for granted."

Ahead of Sunday's Game 3, Antetokounmpo said the Bucks would keep learning from each performance.

"We've got to focus on ourselves and how can we get better and put ourselves into position to win a game. We've got to keep getting better, each game at a time," he said.

"From Game 1 to Game 2 we've been better, we're happy about that, and hopefully from Game 2 to Game 3 we can get better."

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee Bucks trounced the Atlanta Hawks 125-91 to square the Eastern Conference Finals series at 1-1.

After dropping the series opener, the third-seeded Bucks responded by routing the visiting Hawks in Game 2 in the NBA playoffs on Friday.

Two-time MVP Antetokounmpo posted 25 points in just 29 minutes and Jrue Holiday added 22 points of his own as the Bucks eased past the fifth-seeded Hawks in Milwaukee.

The Bucks – ahead 103-63 at the end of three quarters – never trailed against the Hawks, leading by at least 30 points through the second half as both teams rested their starters for the entire fourth period.

In Game 1, Antetokounmpo and Holiday became the first pair of team-mates to each attempt 25-plus field goals and make at least half of them in a playoff game since Kyrie Irving (16-for-29) and LeBron James (15-for-27) did it for the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals.

While they did not reach those numbers in the second showdown, Antetokounmpo (11-for-18 shooting) and Holiday (nine-for-14 shooting) were heavily involved again as the Bucks bounced back on home court.

Brook Lopez (16 points) and Khris Middleton (15 points) were the only other players to finish in double digits for the Bucks, who blew out the Hawks 43-17 in the second period.

Hawks star Trae Young came into the clash on the back of a 48-point, 11-assist performance in Game 1 but he was unable to replicate those numbers.

Young finished six-for-16 shooting for a team-high 15 points as starters John Collins (11 points), Clint Capela (two points and eight rebounds), Bogdan Bogdanovic (eight points) and Kevin Huerter (eight points) struggled.

 

Suns at Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers, still missing Kawhi Leonard (knee) can level the Western Conference Final at 2-2 when they host the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 on Saturday.

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