- The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns 105-98 in Game 6 to win the 2020-2021 NBA Championship.
- The last time the Bucks won the NBA Championship was 1971 led by Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points in the Game 6 victory and was named finals MVP.
The Milwaukee Bucks waited a long time to win the second NBA Championship in franchise history. 50 years to be exact. The first time they won the NBA Championship was 1971 when they had a ridiculously talented team led by Lew Alcindor (who would later change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson. Kareem averaged 31.7 PPG in the regular season and 26.6 per game in the playoffs while ‘The Big O’ contributed 19.4 PPG in the regular season and 19.2 PPG in the playoffs. While these two legends rightfully get most of the attention it should be noted that they were two of five Bucks that averaged in double figures during the regular season and the postseason.
This makes the Finals performance of Giannis Antetokounmpo all the more remarkable. His performance left the iconic Kareem in the dust. He averaged 35.1 PPG in the NBA Finals with insane numbers–50, 42 and 41 points–in three of the games. In the series clinching Game 6, Antetokounmpo went for 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists along with 5 blocked shots. Three games with 40 points and 10 boards puts him in the company of a few others that have achieved this–all NBA legends. Most impressive could be his shooting percentage in Game 6–61.8%. Antetokounmpo had been castigated for his poor free throw shooting in the postseason and at 55.6% it was probably deserved. That notwithstanding, he came up strong in Game 6 going 17 of 19 from the line. He took a lot of pleasure in this after the game:
“People told me I can’t make free throws and I made them tonight. And I’m a freaking champion.”
At one point during the regular season, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was rumored to be on the proverbial ‘hot seat’. In the end, some of the credit has to go to adjustments that the Milwaukee coaching staff made when the team was down 0-2 following losses in Games 1 and 2 in Phoenix:
“I think it’s just a credit to the players. We’ve been pushing. We’ve been trying to get better. The players embrace everything. They’re amazingly coachable. They take it, soak it in and make the best of it.”
Having a player like Antetokoumpo helps any coach and particularly when they come up so strong with the game on the line. The score was tied 77-77 after three quarter but Antetokoumpo put up 13 points in fourth quarter to seal the victory.
In the visitors locker room, Phoenix point guard Chris Paul dismissed talk of moral victories for a team that finished the COVID-19 truncated 2019-2020 season 5 games under .500 and out of the playoffs:
“Nobody probably expected us to be where we are except for us. But it is what it is. Like I said all season long with our team, ain’t no moral victories.”
There’s no reason that Phoenix couldn’t return to the NBA Finals next year but they’ll likely need to get stronger in the middle. Antetokounmpo is just 26 years old so the road to the NBA championship will go through Milwaukee for some time to come.