Tagged in: 3-1

Grayson Allen sinks Chicago Bulls amid boos as Milwaukee Bucks take commanding 3-1 lead

In the days leading up to the team’s first road playoff games in Chicago, the Milwaukee Bucks used every chance they could to shower Grayson Allen with boos.

They booed Allen when he walked onto the team bus. They booed him when he arrived in the lobby of their team hotel. They even booed him during film sessions and when Allen touched the ball in practice.

So when Allen set back-to-back playoff career highs in Games 3 and 4 this weekend to help Milwaukee take a commanding 3-1 series lead over Chicago, the Bucks bench enjoyed booing him all the way.

“They have so much fun doing it,” Allen said with a laugh after scoring 27 points off the bench in the Bucks’ 119-95 victory Sunday afternoon. “I think it’s honestly hilarious. They’ve kind of turned it into a fun thing. It makes hearing it out there during the game a lot easier too because they think it’s so funny.”

Game 5 will be Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

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The Bucks started jeering their own teammate earlier this season once they heard the reaction Allen received every time he touched the ball during the team’s first game in Chicago back in March. Allen became public enemy No.1 to Chicago basketball fans after his flagrant foul on Bulls guard Alex Caruso during a game on Jan. 21 resulted in a fractured wrist for Caruso, forcing him to miss two months.

Allen stated Sunday that he had attempted to reach out to Caruso to apologize after the incident, but the two never connected.

The Bulls downplayed any lingering animosity toward Allen leading up to the series, but fans at the United Center have not let it go as easily, responding with loud boos each time Allen approached the scorer’s table or touched the ball on offense each game this season.

Even if he has gained a reputation as a villain in Chicago, Allen insisted after the game Sunday that he does not feed off such a negative reaction.

“It’s not naturally comfortable for me,” Allen said. “I am to the point now, anytime I go out and play basketball, I just remind myself to go out and have fun with this. … My personality is naturally uncomfortable with the attention, the booing, the heckling. It’s not something I feed off of. I’m not going out searching for it.”

That hasn’t stopped Allen’s teammates from having fun with it.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo suggested Allen frame a photo from Game 3 in which the Bucks bench is in the background booing Allen as he heads to the free throw line after a converted and-1.

Allen went 10-of-12 from the field on Sunday, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, to outscore Chicago’s bench all by himself 27-17. He became the first Bucks player to score 25 points and knock down six 3s in a playoff game in team history and first Bucks player with at least 25 points off the bench since Tim Thomas in 2003, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

Allen even made plays on defense, collecting three steals and holding Chicago to 3-of-8 shooting when he was the primary defender.

Allen rebounded after going 0-for-4 from 3 to start the series in the first two games. His performance this weekend helped the Bucks withstand the loss of forward Khris Middleton, who will miss the rest of this first-round series with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Chicago had waited five years for a home playoff game here, and the fans’ reward was a weekend of uncompetitive basketball.

The Bulls were outscored by a combined score of 230-176 in the two games on their home floor and must win on Wednesday in Milwaukee to extend their season.

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Phoenix Suns take 3-1 series lead, inspired to get Chris Paul first trip to NBA Finals

Just one victory away from the NBA Finals, Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul said he will not allow himself to consider quite yet what it will be like to compete on basketball’s biggest stage for the first time in his 16-year career.

“Not until the job is done. Not until the job is done,” Paul said after the Suns’ gritty 84-80 win over the LA Clippers on Saturday to go up 3-1 in the Western Conference finals. “We can talk about all that then, but right now, it’s just laser focus.

“Three wins don’t win the series, so right now, we did what we came here to do. We wanted to get one of these, and now we got to stay focused and be ready to go back to our crowd.”

Paul, of course, has been here before. In 2018, his Houston Rockets were up 3-2 in the Western Conference finals versus the Golden State Warriors, before the defending champions stormed back to win the final two games, with Paul hobbled by a hamstring injury.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Paul said, looking back on the disappointment from three years ago. “Don’t dwell on things, you always remember, but I’m here now, excited about this opportunity, and all I can worry about right now is Game 5.”

Paul guided Phoenix to its victory in Game 4, playing all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, when he scored seven of his 18 points and dished out two of his seven assists, despite struggling to shoot the ball.

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Paul was 1-for-7 from the field in the fourth — and just 6-for-22 for the game — though he did go 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the closing period.

“I was mad I missed [midrange shots] that could have put us up by five or seven, but it’s so crazy when I went to the free throw line I thought about my son,” Paul, 36, said of his trip to the stripe with 3.9 seconds remaining, and the Suns up by two, when he split the pair of attempts. “I talk to my son all the time about the importance of shooting free throws.

“I seriously went to the free throw line and I was like, ‘How the hell I’m going to tell him to stay poised if I don’t do it my damn self?'”

It would appear Paul’s son is learning from his dad just fine, judging by how Paul’s younger teammates rave about the example he is setting for them.

Deandre Ayton, who lived up to his “DominAyton” nickname with 19 points, 22 rebounds, four blocks and three assists in Game 4, exuded praise for the man who is 14 years his senior.

“I love CP, man,” said Ayton, 22. “That’s really the only teammate that really pushed me. Like big-bro-type push.

“I think he was the best thing that happened to my career. I can say that every day.”

Ayton said he would like to repay Paul’s investment in him by helping Phoenix to at least one more win this postseason so Paul can finally get a taste of the Finals.

“I’m going to try my best,” Ayton said. “I’m going to try my best. … I know how it is as an older player and being in the league and stuff like that. So, when you have an opportunity like this, you can’t take it for granted. And he let us know. He let us know, and we know the task at hand.”

Devin Booker, who ditched the face mask protecting his broken nose to score a team-high 25 points before fouling out, said that he grew up watching Paul.

“I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, and I’ve learned so much from him this year, and I always talk about off the court how he carries himself, and he’s just a true professional at every level at all times,” Booker, 24, said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a man, not even as a basketball player, just understanding how bad he wants this and how much time he’s put into it … 16 years, that’s a long time.

“We know how bad he wants it. … We definitely have his back.”

Suns coach Monty Williams, who coached Paul in the playoffs when they were both with New Orleans a decade ago, gave him a compliment of the highest order when asked how he feels about Paul controlling the action down the stretch.

“He’s not afraid of those moments,” Williams said. “It’s all about winning for Chris.” One more win. One more win and Paul will experience winning in a way he never has before.

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