The 2021 NBA Finals didn’t feature the matchup that most people would have predicted at the start of the season, but the series failed to disappoint. The Milwaukee Bucks wrapped up their second NBA championship in franchise history on Tuesday night with a win over the Phoenix Suns in front of their fans at Fiserv Forum, winning the series in six games. It was Milwaukee’s first title since 1971 and capped an amazing run by the Bucks. Let’s take a closer look at how it happened.
How’d They Get Here
The Bucks began the playoffs as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. But they undoubtedly looked like title contenders in the opening round, sweeping the Heat in four games. But Milwaukee got a stern test from Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, falling behind 2-0. In fact, the home team won the first six games of the series. But the Bucks finally turned the tables in Game 7, overcoming a 48-point effort from Kevin Durant thanks to a 40-point game from Giannis Antetokounmpo to beat the Nets 115-111 in overtime.
Naturally, the Eastern Conference Finals wasn’t much easier for the Bucks, who had to face the Hawks. Atlanta was brimming with confidence after taking down top seed Philadelphia in the Conference Semifinals. But after the Hawks won Game 1 behind 48 points from Trae Young, the Bucks won four of the next five games to take the series.
In a Hole
When the Bucks arrived at the NBA Finals, it was a case of deja vu, as they fell behind 2-0, losing Games 1 and 2 on the road, just as they did against Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Suns were the second seed in the Western Conference and went 12-4 during the playoffs, dispatching the Lakers, Nuggets, and Clippers on their way to reaching the NBA Finals.
Chris Paul continued his impressive playoff run in Game 1 of the Finals, leading Phoenix with 32 points and nine assists. The Phoenix defense was also able to keep Antetokounmpo under wraps in a 118-105 win. Antetokounmpo came alive in Game 2 of the series, scoring 42 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. But it wasn’t enough, as the Suns outscored Milwaukee 30-16 in the second quarter on their way to a 118-108 win behind 31 points from Devin Booker.
Down But Not Out
For the second time in the playoffs, the Bucks found themselves down 2-0 in a series but coming home. Milwaukee managed to stay alive in the series with a convincing 120-100 win in Game 3, with Antetokounmpo scoring 41 points to lead the way. In Game 4, the Bucks switched things up a little. Antetokounmpo registered a double-double with 26 points and 14 rebounds, but Khris Middleton took the lead, scoring 40 points in a 109-103 win that tied up the series.
The series shifted back to Phoenix for Game 5, with the Suns undoubtedly confident that they could regain control of the series with a win at home. That looked to be the case after Phoenix grabbed a 37-21 lead after the first quarter. But the Bucks fought back in the second quarter, outscoring the Suns by 19 points to take a slim lead at halftime. Jrue Holiday was ultimately the hero with 27 points and 13 assists to help lift the Bucks to a slim 123-119 win.
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With the Suns on the road and facing elimination in Game 6, the Bucks made sure there would be no Game 7. Instead, Antetokounmpo delivered a true superstar effort, scoring 50 points in the title-clinching game. The Suns would lead the game at halftime, but the Bucks wouldn’t be denied, with Antetokounmpo scoring 13 of his 50 points in the fourth quarter to help Milwaukee finish a 105-98 win. In the end, Antetokounmpo’s 50 points helped him solidify Finals MVP honors while also snapping a 50-year championship drought for the Bucks.
And in true star fashion, The Greek Freak pulled up at Chik-fil-a to order a 50 Piece in celebration.
Throughout the series, we saw several Bucks legends courtside.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the 1971 Championship Bucks pulled up to Game 4 🐐
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 15, 2021
You hear me tell Coach Bud, “with all due respect”. That was a reference to a private joke between us. Something to do with words from a Bucks legend…#NBACHAMPS #WITHALLDUERESPECT pic.twitter.com/iNurZ1nRRa
— Elder Marques Johnson (@olskool888) July 21, 2021
Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee for Game 6 🔥
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 21, 2021
In addition to other celebrities and notables:
—Chance The Rapper