By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and led by a historic performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks completed its incredible postseason run with a Game 6 win over the Phoenix Suns, winning the NBA championship. Antetokounmpo was fantastic throughout the game, dominating both ends of the court with play after play worthy of the highlight reel. The two-time MVP finished the game with a playoff career-high 50 points, shooting 16-of-25 from the field, and perhaps most impressively, 17-of-19 from the free-throw line. Antetokounmpo also chipped in 14 rebounds and five blocks.
Milwaukee dropped the first two games of the contest, with Game 1 occurring with Antetokounmpo noticeably limited following a knee injury suffered during the Eastern Conference Finals. Showing no signs of injury once the series shifted to Milwaukee for Game 3, Antetokounmpo was paramount to the Bucks winning four consecutive games to close out the series. Basketball will undoubtedly remember his performance on Tuesday night as one of the best in NBA Finals history, and likely as the gold standard for superstar performances in a title-clinching game. There are not enough superlatives to throw around for the level of dominance on display.
While Antetokounmpo was delivering a performance for the ages, his supporting cast struggled for consistency. Outside of Bobby Portis (16 points off the bench), the Bucks struggled to generate consistent offense around Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton’s final line was salvaged by a few trips to the free-throw stripe during the fourth quarter and a clutch basket to extend Milwaukee’s lead to six points during the final minute. However, for much of the game, Middleton was a non-factor as a scorer. The same can be said for Jrue Holiday, who was an abysmal 4-of-19 from the floor, but the defensive wizard was incredible as a playmaker, stuffing the stat sheet with 11 dimes, nine rebounds, and four steals. Holiday’s actual impact on Milwaukee winning goes far more significant than his rough night shooting.
In defeat, the Phoenix Suns deserve credit for putting up a fight. Early in the game, Milwaukee appeared to be cruising to an easy win. However, during the second quarter, Phoenix upped its defensive intensity, and the Suns not only chipped away at the deficit but managed to take the lead. Chris Paul had an excellent bounce-back game with 26 points on 19 shots, but there were long stretches of play where he seemed to take a backseat on the offensive end. As a result, the veteran point guard struggled to create open looks for his teammates, which led to a tough night for Devin Booker.
Hounded by Jrue Holiday for much of the contest, Booker knocked down multiple contested shots that few others in the NBA would have even attempted. Unfortunately, he also missed a fair share thanks to Holiday’s ball-hawking defense. Booker finished the game with 19 points on 22 shots, missing all seven of his attempts from beyond the arc. By the second half, Booker’s frustration was undeniable, and there were multiple possessions during which he seemed more interested in generating a foul call than a clean look. In addition to the struggles scoring, Booker also recorded six turnovers.
With the Bucks taking the mantle as the NBA champions, Antetokounmpo’s legacy has a championship. Milwaukee won’t have a busy offseason with Holiday and Middleton locked up alongside Antetokounmpo. With Donte DiVencenzo returning from injury, the Bucks will have better depth next season with or without meaningful roster moves. However, given the late end to the season due to COVID-19, the rest of the NBA is already in full offseason mode, with the NBA Draft rapidly approaching. NBA fans will have a week to celebrate the Bucks, catch up on sleep, and study up on prospects as the NBA Draft takes place a week from tomorrow.