The Milwaukee Bucks won their first championship in 50 years as they defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games. Here are some of my key takeaways.
Giannis Antetokounmpo- Giannis had one of the best Finals performances in NBA history as he had back- to- back 40+ point games. He also had one of the best close out performance in a finals game by finishing out the series with 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. Lets also not forget that he was a lock down defender and had the memorable block on Deandre Ayton on the alley-oop attempt in game four with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter and Milwaukee hanging on to a two point lead. Giannis carried the Bucks on his back in the finals and was well deserving of winning the Finals MVP. Some people might have said it should have been Khris Middleton for MVP, but he was not consistent enough in the Finals and Giannis was on another level. This should also put away the Batman versus Robin debate because game six clearly showed that Giannis is the “Batman” of the Bucks and Middleton is “Robin”.
What also makes this championship for Giannis so impressive is that he decided to stay put in a small market in Milwaukee where he was drafted (by signing a super-max extension in December 2020) and delivered a championship without having to go join a super team to win. Giannis talked about this last night during the post-game press conference, “It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. I could go- I don’t want to put anybody on the spot- but I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it, and this is the way to do it and we did it.” This championship for Giannis and the Bucks saved the NBA because it showed that you do not always need to join a super team to win today. It is also vital to remember that coming into the Finals, Giannis hyperextended his left knee in the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Atlanta Hawks. While a lot of people thought he would not be 100% or may not even play, he shut down those concerns with his historic Finals performance.
Bucks came back down 0-2 twice in playoffs- The Bucks being able to come back twice in the playoffs also makes this championship run memorable. Milwaukee becomes only the fourth team in NBA history to come back from an 0-2 deficit since the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors (other teams include the Miami Heat over the Dallas Mavericks in 2006, Portland Trail Blazers over the Philadelphia 76ers in 1977 and the Boston Celtics over the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969). While this was very impressive for the Bucks, I do not believe they would have been able to come back from 0-2 versus the Brooklyn Nets if Kyrie Irving had been healthy and James Harden was 100%. However, I will not put an asterisk next to this championship because injuries are a part of the game.
What really changed the momentum in this series was once the series shifted to Milwaukee for game three because the Bucks fans clearly affected how the Suns played. Also, Giannis was on a mission to deliver a championship to Milwaukee and could not be stopped.
Milwaukee Bucks supporting cast- While Giannis was the main event during the Finals, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were inconsistent, but they both played the vital roles that a championship team requires. Holiday was a lock down defender versus Phoenix, specifically with the game ending steal on Devin Booker in game five. Middleton delivered as “Robin” with 40 points in game four and 29 points in game five.
Chris Paul/ Devin Booker- On the Phoenix Suns side, even though Chris Paul was one of their best players alongside Devin Booker, he still disappointed versus Milwaukee with multiple turnovers with some of them coming late in the games. However, I do not believe that this will hurt his legacy because he is still a walking bucket as well as a first ballot future Hall of Famer. There have also been multiple great players that never won a championship including Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Elgin Baylor. However, I will not let Booker off the hook because he had games versus the Bucks where he did not live up to his expectations.
Deandre Ayton- Deandre Ayton was pretty quiet in the series versus Milwaukee. However, I am looking at game six specifically because he looked like he was playing tight and had trouble holding onto the basketball like he had too much butter on his hands. On the flip side, I am not going to put all the blame on him because he is young and this was his first playoffs. In addition, this was his first breakout season and he will only continue to get better.
Monty Williams- The problem that I have with Monty Williams is that he did not put the ball in Cameron Johnson’s hands enough. Johnson showed short spurts of his ability to score but the Suns opted not to give the ball enough. Mikal Bridges also fell off after he lit up the box score in games one and two.
Overall, this was the best NBA Finals since 2016 and one of the greatest close out performances by Giannis Antetokounmpo in Finals history. Looking ahead to next season, I do not believe that the Bucks will repeat as champions because I believe if the Nets are at full strength with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving I do not see any team that will be able to beat them if they are all healthy.