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The Steal (basketball)

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Jrue Holiday (top) stole the ball from Devin Booker (bottom) with 16 seconds left in Game 5 of the 2021 NBA Finals.

The Steal was a defensive basketball play that occurred in Game 5 of the 2021 NBA Finals, played between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns on July 17, 2021 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. With the Milwaukee Bucks leading 120-119 with 16 seconds left in the game, Jrue Holiday stole the ball from Devin Booker and passed the ball to Giannis Antetokounmpo for an alley-oop to put the Bucks ahead 122-119.[1][2]

The series[edit]

The Phoenix Suns, who entered the 2020-21 NBA season with a 10-year playoff drought and having a .302 winning percentage in the last five seasons, which is the worst winning percentage in the five years prior for a team advancing to the final playoff round in any of the four major American professional sports leagues,[3][4], acquired All-Star Chris Paul from the Oklahoma City Thunder by trading away Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., and a future first-round draft pick,[5] and made their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993 and were seeking for their first NBA Championship in franchise history. The Milwaukee Bucks, after finishing with the league's best record in the prior two seasons before suffering disappointments in the playoffs, acquired Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans in a four-team trade, surrendering a bounty in starting point guard Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, the rights to R. J. Hampton, and a package of future draft picks,[6] and made their first NBA Finals appearance since 1974 and were seeking to end a 50-year title drought by winning their first NBA Championship since 1971.[7]

The Phoenix Suns took a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals by winning Games 1 and 2 at home, led by Chris Paul, with 32 and 23 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively, and Devin Booker, with 27 and 31 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively.[8][9] The Milwaukee Bucks won Game 3 120-100 at home, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 41 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, as well as more support from his teammates to cut the series deficit to 2-1.[10] The Milwaukee Bucks won Game 4 109-103, highlighted by Khris Middleton's 40 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo's block of Deandre Ayton's potential game-tying alley-oop with 1:14 remaining to tie the series at 2-2.[11]

The game[edit]

Game 5 of the 2021 NBA Finals
1234 Total
Milwaukee Bucks 21433623 123
Phoenix Suns 37242929 119
DateJuly 17, 2021
VenueFootprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona
RefereesMarc Davis, Josh Tiven, James Williams

The Phoenix Suns made 14 out of 19 shots in the first quarter, including a stretch where they made 11 consecutive shots, to take a 37-21 lead after the first quarter.[1][2] The Milwaukee Bucks would then outscore the Phoenix Suns 21-5 to start the second quarter to tie the game at 42-42 on a Pat Connaughton 3-pointer with 7:48 left in the first half.</ref>[2] The Milwaukee Bucks would continue on for 43 points in the second quarter, which is an NBA Finals record for most points scored in a quarter by a road team, to take a 64-61 lead at halftime.[1] The Milwaukee Bucks would then use their 62.1% shooting percentage through the first three quarters, which rivaled the Orlando Magic's 62.5% shooting percentage in Game 3 of the 2009 NBA Finals for the NBA Finals single-game shooting percentage record, to take a 100-90 lead after the third quarter. The Milwaukee Bucks took a 108-94 lead after Jrue Holiday's basket with just over nine minutes remaining in the game, but the Phoenix Suns mounted a comeback to cut the deficit to 120-119 with less than a minute remaining.[2]

The Steal[edit]

After a Jure Holiday miss with 31.9 seconds left in the game, Devin Booker got the rebound and dribbled the ball upcountry himself. He stopped and pivoted in the paint, when Jrue Holiday forcefully pulled the ball from his hands for the steal.[12][13] After initially intending to run down the clock,[14] Jrue Holiday passed the ball to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was also fouled on the play by Chris Paul, for the alley-oop to put the Bocks ahead 122-109 with 13.5 seconds left.[12][13]

Rest of the Game[edit]

While Giannis Antetokounmpo missed his free throw[2], he volleyed the ball back for an offensive rebound by Khris Middleton, who was fouled immediately. Khris Middleton would then make one of two free throws to put the Bucks ahead 123-119.[13] The Bucks would hold off the Suns on their final possession to win the game 123-119 and take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals.

Rest of series[edit]

The Milwaukee Bucks would go on to win Game 6 105-98 led by Giannis Antetokounmpo's 50 points (which tied a Finals record for the most scored by a player in a series-clinching game, set by Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks in 1958.[15][16]), 14 rebounds, and five blocks to win their first NBA Championship since 1971 and end their 50-year NBA Championship drought.[17][18] Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the NBA Finals MVP for his dominant performances in the NBA Finals, becoming the youngest player to be named NBA Finals MVP at age 26 since Kawhi Leonard (22) in 2014[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bucker, Candace (July 17, 2021). "Milwaukee Bucks hang on to win Game 5 of NBA Finals over Phoenix Suns". The Washington Posr. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Bucks edge Suns 123-119 to take 3-2 lead in NBA Finals". ESPN.com. AP. July 17, 2021. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  3. @ESPNStatsInfo (July 1, 2021). "The Suns had just a .302 winning pct in the previous 5 seasons entering this one. They are now headed to the NBA Finals. That's the worst in the 5 seasons prior to an appearance in the final postseason round in the history of the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB" (Tweet). Retrieved July 1, 2021 – via Twitter.
  4. Schuster, Blake. "Suns Clinch 1st Playoff Spot Since 2010; Latest 2021 Standings, Playoff Picture". Bleacher Report. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  5. "Suns complete trade for Chris Paul, Abdel Nader". NBA.com. November 16, 2020. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  6. Deb, Sopan (July 4, 2021). "For the Milwaukee Bucks, the Jrue Holiday Gamble Yielded a Jackpot". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  7. Andrews, Malika (July 3, 2021). "Khris Middleton lifts Milwaukee Bucks past Atlanta Hawks, into NBA Finals". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  8. "Paul carries Suns past Giannis, Bucks in NBA Finals opener". ESPN.com. AP. July 6, 2021. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  9. "Halfway there: Suns beat Bucks for 2-0 lead in NBA Finals". ESPN.com. AP. July 8, 2021. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
  10. "Bucks blowout: Giannis has 41, Suns' NBA Finals lead now 2-1". ESPN.com. AP. July 11, 2021. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  11. "Middleton sends Bucks past Suns to tie NBA Finals at 2-2". ESPN.com. AP. July 14, 2021. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Naokarni, Rohan (July 18, 2021). "Bucks' Resilience Creates Opportunity for Thrilling Finals Finish". SI.com. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Abrams, Jonathan (July 18, 2021). "Steal and Alley-Oop Leave Bucks One Win From an N.B.A. Title". The New York Times. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  14. Devine, Dan (July 18, 2021). "The Bucks Dared to Dream. Now They've Almost Realized the Biggest One". The Ringer. Retrieved July 20, 2021.
  15. Botkin, Brad (July 21, 2021). "Bucks vs. Suns NBA Finals: Giannis Antetokounmpo bests Michael Jordan's post-merger record with 50-point gem". CBSSports.com. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  16. Jackson, James (July 20, 2021). "Sports world reacts to Milwaukee Bucks winning first NBA title since 1971". ESPN. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  17. Deb, Sopan (July 20, 2021). "The Milwaukee Bucks Win the N.B.A. Championship". The New York Times. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  18. Jackson, James (July 20, 2021). "Sports world reacts to Milwaukee Bucks winning first NBA title since 1971". ESPN. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  19. "Giannis Antetokounmpo wins 2021 NBA Finals MVP: Bucks star becomes youngest winner since Kawhi Leonard in 2014". CBSSports.com. Retrieved 2021-07-22.

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