The Milwaukee Bucks supporting cast showed their value by carrying the team into the NBA Finals after beating Atlanta in consecutive games.
Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a rough night for Milwaukee fans. The absolute unthinkable happened. Giannis left the game with a pretty ugly-looking hyperextension and was not coming back anytime soon. Even when he was out there, the Bucks simply looked dreadful and stood no shot after the injury. With the series tied, the Milwaukee Bucks were looking to advance without their star player, but so were the Atlanta Hawks.
Trae Young unfortunately rolled his ankle near the end of Game 3 and would be missing his second straight game. Therefore, game 5 would be the battle of the others. In the offseason, Milwaukee expended a lot of resources towards improving this aspect of their team. Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and more needed to step up big… and that’s exactly what happened.
Game 5 was the night of the big man. Brook Lopez, a former back-to-the-basket type player, was an absolute force, recording 26 of his playoff career-high 33 points in the paint. Ever since joining the Bucks, Brook has been much more perimeter-focused than earlier in his career. There was another big for the Milwaukee Bucks who had a playoff career-high as well. Bobby “Crazy Eyes” Portis went nuts in Game 5 dropping 22 points while impacting things defensively as well with three steals.
Bobby Portis was an energizing threat for Milwaukee, but one cannot downplay the importance of Middleton and Holiday. Both played incredibly balanced basketball, impacting all facets of the game. Both were just shy of 25+ point triple-doubles, something that was desperately needed from them. After a pretty commanding victory in Game 5, Giannis was bought another day of rest by his supporting cast.
With the Atlanta Hawks on the brink of elimination, the return of Trae Young, regardless of his health status, was coming. Some may argue he should’ve stayed out, but Young would not sit on the sidelines as his entire season came crumbling down. Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis would not have career nights yet again, making this game doable for Atlanta. It was a close battle throughout, with defenses controlling a low-scoring first half.
The Milwaukee Bucks only had 47 points at halftime, which is very low for them as they led the league in scoring this year. On average, the Bucks scored 120 points per game in the regular season, a number they would fall just short of after a ridiculous 3rd quarter. Khris Middleton made it clear to the NBA world that he is a worthy secondary star after scoring 16 straight points in the third to really shut the door on Atlanta’s season.
Middleton, when hot, might be the most unguardable player in the league, and in Game 6 we were all witnesses to it. His third quarter, accompanied by some clutch teammate help, allowed Milwaukee to nearly double their score. Heading into the 4th, Milwaukee had a 91 to 72 lead. Trae Young really tried his hardest to claw this team back into things, but the stifling Bucks’ defense would not allow it.
Bogdan Bogdanovic finally showed up and tried his best to keep Atlanta afloat, but it was too little, too late. His struggles throughout this series, as well as Huerter’s, were big aspects of their series loss against Milwaukee. However, the real story for Game 6 was Trae Young being off. Really off. He shot an abysmal 4 of 17 from the field and made zero three-pointers all night. Clearly, the injury was still a problem for him as he looked nothing like he did at the beginning of this series.
Despite the sad ending, the Atlanta Hawks should be quite proud of this surprising season. They were nowhere near this level of play last year, let alone earlier in this season. The Hawks were apparent sellers at the deadline but ended the season defeating the number one seeded Sixers in a brutal series. The future is bright in Atlanta as their youthful talent is plentiful and will hopefully only improve from here.
2021 NBA Finals: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns
The Milwaukee Bucks finally made it to the top of the Eastern Conference. After three seasons of dominating the regular season, Milwaukee will finally be able to fight for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. They will be facing the hot Phoenix Suns who ran through the west rather easily. Yes, they did encounter many teams plagued by injury, but their team is clearly on a roll and will look to bring Chris Paul his first-ever NBA title.
Milwaukee will be looking to steal game one tonight in Phoenix without the help of their All-NBA player, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Over the last three seasons, the Bucks have really struggled against the Suns, hosting a 1-5 record against them. Additionally, the win differential over the past three years for the Bucks with and without Giannis is staggering. When Giannis is on the floor, Milwaukee has had a record of 147-49 (.750) versus a record of 15-16 (.484) without him.
Not only is the team drastically better with him, but they have also played significantly more games alongside him. Therefore, the preparedness Milwaukee has without their star player is questionable. The Atlanta Hawks were a great team this year, but they do not compare to that of the Phoenix Suns. All season long, the Suns were among the league’s best defenses and three-point shooting teams, and they have only been better since.
Whether or not Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and the rest of the supporting cast can continue their run without the two-time MVP is unsure. If they can continue stepping up to the plate-like they did in their last two games, this will be a very tight series. Giannis should ultimately make a return in this series, but being able to stay afloat without him is essential to their series victory. There are a number of keys to victory in this series for Milwaukee, but nothing compares to the health of Giannis and what his teammates can do in the meantime.
Tonight, Tuesday, July 6th will be the first night of the NBA finals. It is quite an unexpected finals matchup as well, with very few thinking the Suns would make such a massive jump so quickly. Trending on Twitter is this five-year-old tweet predicting this matchup.
2021 NBA finals Bucks vs Suns game 7 Bucks win 123-115
— Jarrett Plahmer (@Plahm1) November 3, 2016
This crazy prediction is really unbelievable. Will he be right… who knows, guess we shall have to wait and see.
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