THE Milwaukee Bucks look to close out the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns in Game Six on Wednesday (Manila time). (Milwaukee Bucks Facebook page)

MILWAUKEE — Elimination games are all about mentality, and the Milwaukee Bucks are acclimating to the demands of finishing while the Phoenix Suns attempt to embrace the underdog role. 

“You have to embrace it,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said Monday after the team’s tune-up practice for Game Six on Tuesday night. “You have to embrace where you are in the series and from there, you have to focus and channel your emotions and energy towards the next game, and that’s tomorrow night. We just know it’s going to be a dogfight… It’s win or go home. The words speak for (themselves).” 

Where the Suns are right now is one win from being dispatched from the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals after leading 2-0. Milwaukee claimed three games in a row, with late-game heroics to capture Game Four at home and Game Five in Phoenix on Saturday night. 

Phoenix had the best record in the NBA on the road — 24-12 — in the regular season. But Milwaukee, with a 26-10 mark in the regular season, tied for the fifth-best home mark in the league with the Los Angeles Clippers. 

The Suns are focused on patching up a defense that allowed a pair of 40-point games to Giannis Antetokounmpo, another to Khris Middleton and a memorable Game Five effort from Jrue Holiday. 

“Our guys have always wanted it, but I think when you’re in these moments like this, this is different,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said.  

While the Bucks have shared the leading role to win three straight in the series, the Suns continue to lean heavily on Devin Booker. He has 82 of the team’s 222 points in the past two games in a pair of 40-point efforts in losses. Williams allowed that Booker wants to “win the moment,” but the Suns need more of the team attack to dismantle Milwaukee’s defense. 

The Bucks continued to dominate inside even without Antetokounmpo carrying the scoring load and ran out for 21 fast-break points in Game Five. Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer credits the open-floor decision making with unifying his group and promoting the level of unselfishness the Bucks have showcased the past two games. 

Decisions are not coming as easily or naturally for Paul, the Suns point guard who is averaging 3.6 turnovers per game in the series as the focus of the Bucks’ full-court pressure. The idea, Holiday said, is to make Paul work on every dribble and hope that pays off with missed shots or rushed decisions in the fourth quarter. 

Paul said on Monday he’s not down. He’s excited to know the Suns can flip the script in Game Six. 

“It’s definitely exciting,” Paul said, denying there was any added pressure. “We get a chance to determine the outcome. It’s not like the game is going to be simulated or somebody else got to play. We get a chance. We control our own destiny.” 

For Milwaukee, winning at home on Tuesday brings the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the Bucks’ organization for the first time since 1971. It helps soothe a recent history of playoff failure, and might loosen the criticism of Budenholzer, who insists nothing in the past has been referenced to motivate his team to get to this point. 

Antetokounmpo signed a long-term deal to continue his marriage with Milwaukee and is eager to take the court on Tuesday night with a chance to seal the series. He’s also reminding himself that if the script doesn’t follow his own plan, the Bucks have another chance in their back pocket. 

“We got to be in the present as much as possible. I can’t focus on celebrating,” he said. “Hopefully, we win. If we win, great. If we don’t, we have one more chance. But if we win, it would be nice to celebrate with the fans inside and outside and with our families, because this is something historical that is happening in the city right now.” — Reuters