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July 17, 2021

Khris Middleton

Pat Connaughton

Milwaukee Bucks

Game 5 Postgame

Milwaukee Bucks 123, Phoenix Suns 119

Q. Their first quarter, 16-point lead to start the second. You guys are on the court, Giannis is on the bench, that 21-5 run there, what was happening? What turned? I know Jrue was really involved, but what did you both see in that early part of the second quarter?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Just playing a little bit faster. Definitely helped with a couple more stops. Limited some of their threes. I think definitely playing faster, moving side-to-side a little more helped us out.

Q. Monty called timeout when you went on an 11-3 run and that's not usual for Bud to not put Giannis back in the game for six minutes, so what was that feel, that vibe, where Bud is just like, this group is rolling, so let's go with it?

PAT CONNAUGHTON: Yeah, I think Coach has a feel for it every game. We have lineups that are in rhythm and making runs, and he kind of lets us ride. Oftentimes Giannis is in the game for those runs, but it just shows that we've got a true team and we have Giannis' back just like he has our back. We're moving the ball. We were playing defense. We were doing things that Bucks basketball does, so it doesn't really matter who is on the floor for it.

Q. I know maybe it doesn't even look as spectacular as Giannis' block, but that steal by Jrue, what did you see and what are you thinking as he's dribbling down the other way?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: I saw the tail end of it. I just saw the last play, rip it out of his hands. Once it's a loose ball, Jrue has got great instincts and great hand. Once he's on the fast break with Giannis, I feel like we have a good chance with either one finishing.

Q. I think that was like the third time he had just ripped somebody clean in that game. Just what have you gotten to know about Jrue? I know you guys knew going in he's a great defender, but what did you see this year and get a better feel for what Jrue can really bring?

PAT CONNAUGHTON: I saw it in Portland, when he was in New Orleans and we got swept in the first round. Just the way he defends on a nightly basis and the way that he's able to do it in different ways. He's physical, he's quick, he's strong. He's got a lot of things to him. And he's got quick hands. First Team All Defensive play. It was a defensive play of the year. It just kind of shows we're built on defense. The last two games, we've had a big defensive stop to kind of push us over the hump, and they have been made by a guy who is First Team All Defense.

Q. How much are you aware of the "Bucks in six" mantra that Bucks fans have adopted this year and what does it mean that you're going home with a chance to win in six games?

PAT CONNAUGHTON: We don't really care if it's Bucks in whatever; we just want it to be Bucks, right. I think it's been great to rally the fan base. I think they have actually had it for a few years, so it's been a cool thing to hear and see. But at the end of the day, we go out there every single night trying to win, trying to represent the city of Milwaukee to the best of our ability. We've got to do it again. The job's not done. It was a great win tonight. We had each other's backs and there was ebbs and flows to the game that I think really brought us together and showed us that we can fight through adversity. But we've still got one more.

Q. Khris, you've had big individual nights in this series and Giannis has had big individual nights, and Pat, but to have you, Jrue, Giannis, Pat, all get going at the same time, what does that do and how did you find that extra gear?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Makes everything more balanced and makes life easier for everybody. Knowing that we play together and we have everybody clicking on all cylinders, we're tough to guard.

Obviously on defense, we can click. We can switch and we know how to have each other's back. But when we are all playing well, we're one of the best teams, for sure.

Q. And you've so clearly left it out there these last two games, especially. There was a moment in the fourth that reminded me of that image of Jimmy Butler, where you were draped over the side. What for you this next day before getting ready for the biggest game of your career, what does that look like in terms of recovery and how you're currently feeling?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Just a lot of fluids. I was just cramping a little bit, something I've been going through a lot. Just got to play through it and drink a lot of fluids, stay with my recovery plan. Just leave it all out there, like you said.


KHRIS MIDDLETON: Yeah (laughing).

Q. That play at the end was a spectacular play from Jrue but he hit shots in the second quarter and throughout the game. You've been talking all series about you were waiting for him to have a breakout game. How good did it feel to see him get going and spark that comeback in the second quarter?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: It was great. One of the things we talk about all the time in the locker room is aggressive Jrue. When he's aggressive, he's one of the tougher point guards to handle -- his size, his athleticism, his skill set. He can do so many things on the court when he's aggressive and getting to the paint, hitting shots like we saw tonight and finding guys. He's a balanced player and really skilled player that we're lucky to have.

Q. Pat, you broke down his credentials as a defender, but what about the instincts both of the strip and then of what he did after he stripped it?

PAT CONNAUGHTON: Yeah, I mean, it's who he is. He's a winner. He makes winning plays, they're defense, they're offense, they're all over the court. He's a great teammate off the court and he's a great teammate on the court. Like Khris said, his skill, his strength, his athleticism. That was an instinctual play. He saw time/score, he saw D-Book trying to go downhill on the spin, and he just had the ability to have hand-eye coordination, find the ball, rip it and then understand time/score on the other side.

Come down, there's a lot of guys that would dribble it out and try to waste more time. But he knew the time, he knew the score and he knew a bucket would kind of be a backbreaker. He threw it to where there may only be one or two individuals in the world that could get it.

Q. Khris, could you follow up on that?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Yeah, the same way I guess Pat really described it. He has great instincts. Going against him, he's a tough cover. He anticipates moves, knows what you like to do. Like I said before, on the offensive end, he's strong. You feel that strength on the defensive side, too. He's quick. He studies the game. On the offensive end, he's one of the best finishers in the game at his position, but he's also one of the better playmakers also in reading who to throw it to, whether to fake it and go or throw it up to Giannis.

Q. What did you see when they started to send that double to you on every pick-and-roll, like that double is coming pretty hard? How did you feel like you guys handled it?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: They have been doing that randomly throughout the series. My job is once I see two on me, find that open guy and let them make the rest of the plays. That's what my job is, when I see two, to give it up to the open guy and let them attack.

Q. You talked a lot about Jrue but it felt like Giannis had that composure where either he was going to beat them off the bounce, he was going to get to his turnaround. What did you see from him? It felt like a complete offensive performance.

KHRIS MIDDLETON: He did a great job. The same randomness with the traps on the pick-and-rolls, they double-teamed him randomly on the block throughout the game and a couple times during the series. He's been doing a great job knowing when he could sometimes beat it, and knowing when they are coming in, finding that outlet out and letting us attack on the back side and also knowing when they are not coming. He's done a great job, for sure.

Q. This won't show up in the box score, but after Chris got that layup to make it 120-119 and you had to call timeout and Jrue gets the ball with five seconds on the shot clock. You haven't been in that spot since Brooklyn where that was that kind of confusion. Can you talk about getting better at stuff like that? And how important was that, court awareness, clock awareness?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: That's one of the main things we talked about coming out of the timeouts, when we are in our play and knowing we have five seconds left on the shot clock. The first, second, third option wasn't there and Jrue did a great job recognizing that he just got to put it up. Get a shot attempt up at least and give us a chance for him to make it and offensive rebound. And if not, we've got a shot up and get back on defense basically.

Q. I'm sure you're looking for your shot. You're not trying to force it out --

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Yeah, I've had a couple bad turnovers throughout my career, for sure, throughout this season. I can't remember this postseason. But knowing that I don't have a clean shot and don't trust my passes in the deep corner, don't want to give a breakaway layup to somebody. Just stay calm, stay composed knowing that we have a timeout or two left.

Q. For either one of you, how much does the experience you've had in the past two years and this playoffs help prepare you for this moment?

PAT CONNAUGHTON: Yeah, I think fighting through adversity, the last few years, obviously which I've said a few times, we were the best team in the league during the regular season, and when adversity hit in the playoffs, we weren't able to really get through it. I think this year we learned from some adversity that hit in the regular season. And throughout these playoffs, when adversity has hit, whether it be over the course of a series or over the course of an individual game, a quarter, whatever it might be, we've come together even stronger.

We've had each other's backs even more and made sure that we've made the plays together, both offensively and defensively. I think that's what championship-caliber basketball is all about. It's about having each other's backs. Adversity is going to hit at some point, but how do you respond to it? How do you respond to it individually and how do you respond to it collectively to try to put us in a position to win?

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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