BASKETBALL:  Antetokounmpo carries Bucks to NBA title

July 21, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks ended a 50-year wait for an NBA title as Giannis Antetokounmpo put in a Herculean performance to help the Bucks clinch the trophy 105-98 against the Phoenix Suns.

Buck’s Greek forward put in a master class when it mattered to score 50 points along with 14 rebounds and five blocked shots to help the Bucks win the series 4-2. In his debut finals appearance, Antetokounmpo put in one of the game’s greatest performances as he went on to take the MVP trophy as well. His performance was reminiscent of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s performance in 1971, the last time the Bucks won the title. The Bucks forward scored an astonishing 33 of his 50 points after halftime of Game 6, with 16 of 25 field goals, 17 of the 19 free throws, 14 rebounds and five blocks coming in little over 40 minutes.

Coming into Game 6, the Bucks were high on confidence after back-to-back wins which had helped them take a lead in the series after losing the opening two games of the Finals. And it was Antetokounmpo who was playing out of his skin in all the Finals games. The Greek had scored 41 points in Game 3, helped with 14 rebounds and 8 assists along with a crucial game saving block in Game 4, top scored with 32 points and 9 rebounds to take the lead 3-2 in Game 5 and put in a master class in Game 6 in front of the Milwaukee crowd at the Fiserv Forum.

The 26-year-old becomes only the third player after Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon to win the MVP Trophy in the Finals along with winning regular season MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

Game 6 started strongly for the Bucks, who led at the end of the 1st quarter by 29-16, but the Suns started the second quarter on the attack with Phoenix’s Payne scoring multiple times to make it 29-26. Portis responded swiftly, helping the Bucks increase their lead to 5, but Mikal Bridges kept the Suns close at 33-31. Sun’s Chris Paul, who had been relatively quiet up until then, made an easy layup to tie the scores at 33 all with little over 5 minutes to go in the second quarter.

Deandre Ayton and Paul carried the momentum forward for the Suns to take the lead for the first time, going 34-37, with Game 7 looking imminent. The first half ended with the Suns leading 47 – 42.  As the second half got underway, a charged-up Bucks took the court, led by Antetokounmpo, who already had 17 points by the end of the first half. The Greek started the third quarter strongly for the Bucks.

Along with Portis, Antetokounmpo got the Bucks back in the game with the scores tied at 77-77 at the end of the third quarter. Both teams traded scores off each other in the final quarter, with Giannis falling back to make crucial blocks while also attacking ahead. Paul, on the other hand, was trying his best to score and win fouls for the Suns, hoping to take the Finals to a seventh game. By the end of the fourth quarter, Giannis had run over the Suns and had scored an astonishing 16 out of his 17 free throws, which was described as the weakest part of his game.

Although Booker and Ayton tried their best to keep the Suns ahead heading into the final two minutes, the Bucks were the ones up by 8 points (100-92). Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis kept things ahead for the Bucks in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter but quite fittingly it was Antetokounmpo who scored two free throws right at the end, to make it 50 points for himself and help Bucks end their long wait for an NBA Finals win.

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