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The Bucks Beat The Suns To Become NBA Champions Thanks To Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Historic 50-Point Night

The Milwaukee Bucks put together three consecutive wins to erase a 2-0 series deficit against the Phoenix Suns and set up a chance to clinch the 2021 NBA championship at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday. Milwaukee and Phoenix traded runs throughout the evening but, on the strength of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s record-setting performance, the Bucks secured their first title since 1971 with a 105-98 victory in Game 6.

With sky-high stakes, both teams appeared to be nervy and uneven out of the gate. The Suns and Bucks combined to go 3-for-15 in the opening minutes, with seven turnovers and only eight total points in more than five minutes. The only real highlight came on the defensive end, with Antetokounmpo flying around with a blocked shot and a finish on the other end.

Milwaukee found their offense first, asserting control with an 11-2 run to close the first quarter. The Bucks committed seven first-quarter turnovers, but they shot 48 percent and Antetokounmpo produced 10 points and six rebounds in the opening quarter. Phoenix struggled mightily, shooting just 7-for-24 from the floor with five turnovers, and it was the lowest-scoring first quarter of the playoffs for the Suns.

In what was almost the exact inverse of Game 5 in Phoenix, things flipped to the Suns in the second quarter. The visitors scored the first ten points of the quarter, holding the Bucks without a point until the 8:25 mark, and Phoenix used a 23-5 run to take a 39-34 lead. Milwaukee scored just five points on 17 possessions across more than eight minutes, just as the Suns became more comfortable.

Chris Paul was a big part of Phoenix’s run, scoring 10 points in the second quarter and generating mid-range jumpers consistently when he used aggression off the bounce.

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Overall, it was a bizarro half for both teams, but the Bucks trailed by five points at the break. Much of that could be traced to Milwaukee’s 4-for-20 shooting in the second quarter, but the Bucks’ shot quality suffered, just as the Suns were shooting 11-for-18 from the floor in the period.

Out of the locker room, Antetokounmpo asserted himself and made a tremendous impact. He engineered an early 8-0 run, scoring the final six points on his own, and that allowed the Bucks to reclaim the lead. While Phoenix battled back to tie the contest at 77-77 after three quarters, it was a truly magnificent quarter from Antetokounmpo. He finished with 20 of Milwaukee’s 35 points, dominating the proceedings and allowing the Bucks to start the fourth quarter fresh and level.

The early portion of the fourth quarter kept to the theme of back-and-forth basketball, but Antetokounmpo continued to dominate at an obscene level. He threw down a dunk with approximately six minutes remaining, giving the Bucks a six-point edge and pushing him to 45 points.

Milwaukee extended its lead to as many as eight points on multiple occasions during the closing stretch, though Phoenix wouldn’t fade. Despite the continued absurdity of Antetokounmpo, the Suns were within four points in the last 90 seconds, but Khris Middleton knocked down what became the dagger in the final minute.

Myriad storylines emerged on this night, but the No. 1 focus was an all-time effort from Antetokounmpo. He became the first player since at least 1974 to produce at least 40 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocked shots in an NBA Finals game. The two-time NBA MVP finished with 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks in 42 minutes, making him the first player to hit that point total in a closeout game in Finals history. In addition to his productivity and the fact that he became just the seventh player to score 50 points in an NBA Finals game, Antetokounmpo converted a staggering 17-for-19 at the free throw line, helping the Bucks to post a stellar 25-for-29 mark as a team after struggling at the charity stripe throughout the playoffs.

It was a monumental performance from Antetokounmpo, and he wasn’t alone. Middleton and Jrue Holiday didn’t replicate their Game 5 showings offensively, but they were able to to contribute, with Middleton making big shots and Holiday delivering his trademark defensive impact the entire way. As a team, the Bucks did a fantastic job defensively, forcing the Suns into difficult shot attempts throughout the night, securing the glass and forcing 15 turnovers.

When trailing 0-2 after back-to-back losses in Phoenix, the Bucks were seemingly on the ropes as significant underdogs in the best-of-seven series. They finished their run with four straight victories, however, and they did so in memorable and impressive fashion behind a transcendent performance from Antetokounmpo, just days after he suffered a scary knee injury in the Eastern Conference Finals. From there, he will assuredly be showered with deserved praise, and the NBA title is coming to Milwaukee for the first time in five decades.

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