NBA Finals 2021: The evolution of Giannis Antetokounmpo, from … Wed, 21 Jul 2021 08:00:00 +0100-Giannis Antetokounmpo ended one of the greatest NBA finals ever with 50 points and a championship Milwaukee waited 50 years to win again.
Giannis Antetokounmpo ended one of the greatest NBA finals ever with 50 points and a championship Milwaukee waited 50 years to win again.
Antetokounmpo added 14 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 on Tuesday night to win the series 4-2. It was the third game this series with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds for Antetokounmpo, a dominant debut finals performance that takes its place among some of the game’s greatest.
He shot 16 for 25 from the field and made an unbelievable 17-of-19 free throws – a spectacular showing for any shooter, let alone one who was hitting just 55.6% in the postseason and was ridiculed for it at times.
“People told me I can’t make free throws and I made them tonight. And I’m a freaking champion,” Antetokounmpo said.
He hopped around the court waving his arms with 20 seconds remaining to encourage fans to cheer, but there was no need. Their voices had been booming inside and outside for hours by then, having waited 50 years to celebrate a winner after Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson led the Bucks to the championship in 1971.
In a season played played largely without fans, the Bucks had 65,000 of them packed into the Deer District precinct outside the stadium, a wild party that seemed set to last deep into the Midwestern night. The party wasn’t bad inside, either: confetti rained down inside as fans chanted “Bucks in 6! Bucks in 6!” a hopeful boast by a former player that turned out to be a prophetic rallying cry.
The Bucks became the fifth team to win the NBA finals after trailing 2-0 and the first to do it by then winning the next four games since Miami against Dallas in 2006.
Chris Paul scored 26 points to end his first NBA finals appearance in his 16th season. Devin Booker added 19 points but shot just 8 for 22 and missed all seven three-pointers after scoring 40 points in each of the last two games.
“There’s just a pain that goes with your season being over,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But I’ve never dealt with this and so I’m grateful, like I said, but I know this is going to hurt for a while.”
The teams that came into the NBA together as expansion clubs in 1968 delivered a fine finals, with the last three games all in the balance deep into the fourth quarter.
The Bucks won them largely because of Antetokounmpo, a two-time MVP in the regular season who raised his game even higher in the finals and was voted the unanimous NBA finals MVP.
He was the star of these finals in every way, from his powerful play on the court to his humble thoughts in interviews to taking time after Tuesday night’s win to find children to high-five amid the celebrations. And he did it all after missing the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals with a hyperextended left knee, an injury that at first he feared could be serious to end his season.
Just think what people would have missed.
Khris Middleton scored 17 points for the Bucks and Bobby Portis came off the bench with 16. Jrue Holiday had 12 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds to go along with his usual sturdy defense that helped finally cool off Booker.
The Bucks won just 15 games in 2013-14 when Antetokounmpo was a rookie after the forward from Greece was taken with the No. 15 pick. Middleton was beginning his second NBA season after the Bucks had acquired the second-round pick in a trade with Detroit that summer.
What started as a gradual time sped up in the last few years and the Bucks thought they might be here the last two seasons. They had the NBA’s best record in 2018-19 but blew a 2-0 lead against Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals.
They came back with the best record again last season but never regained their momentum after the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic in March. They were eliminated in the second round by Miami in the bubble.
The Bucks traded for Holiday before this season and even though they weren’t quite as strong in the regular season, they were finally NBA finals ready.
And Milwaukee was ready for the moment.
“I think it’s just a credit to the players,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’ve been pushing. We’ve been trying to get better. The players embrace everything. They’re amazingly coachable. They take it, soak it in and make the best of it.”
Fans began filling the streets and restaurants in the afternoon on what felt like a holiday in Milwaukee. The Brewers moved up the start time of their home game against Kansas City to be played in the afternoon to accommodate Milwaukee fans and Brewers star Christian Yelich, who was part of the crowd inside Fiserv Forum.
The game was tied at 77 after three quarters but Antetokoumpo had 13 points in the fourth to make sure Milwaukee wouldn’t have to go back to Phoenix for Game 7 on Thursday.
The Suns returned to the postseason for the first time since 2010 but remain without a title and have never won more than two games in their three appearances in the NBA finals.
“Nobody probably expected us to be where we are except for us,” Paul said. “But it is what it is. Like I said all season long with our team, ain’t no moral victories.”
Freak out! Giannis Antetokounmpo's 50 power Milwaukee Bucks to … Wed, 21 Jul 2021 08:00:00 +0100-Eight years ago, Giannis Antetokounmpo was an 18-year-old rookie who had barely spent any time outside of Greece. Today, he is a two-time MVP and newly …
MILWAUKEE — With 19.8 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals, Giannis Antetokounmpo walked down the floor alone, arms spread, smile wide. He implored the home crowd in Milwaukee to boost its exuberance even more. In a few short moments, he'd lead a celebration 50 years in the making, as the Bucks' clinched the 2021 NBA title with a 105-98 victory.
Few achievements can eclipse a 50-point masterpiece in a close-out win for a championship. With Antetokounmpo's performance on Tuesday night, he can now claim his rightful place in the pantheon of NBA legends.
The Game 6 win exhibited the full breadth of his extraordinary game. For 42 minutes, he knifed through the Phoenix defense and assaulted the rim. A 6-foot-11 force with innumerable skills, he controlled the glass like a center and handled the ball like a point guard. An elite All-NBA defender, he swatted away five shots and spent much of the fourth quarter on Chris Paul. And then there were the free throws. Those free throws. In the signature game of his career, he exorcised his most persistent demon, draining 17 of his 19 attempts from the line.
For his efforts, just three weeks after suffering a hyperextension of his left knee, Antetokounmpo won Finals MVP. He joins Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in NBA history to win that award, regular-season MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
Most of all, the title culminates a remarkable journey that started in the modest Athens neighborhood of Sepolia as the child of Nigerian immigrants. A child whose first love was soccer, Antetokounmpo didn't start playing basketball until he was 12 years old and competed in Greece's second-tier league just one season before he landed in Milwaukee as the No. 15 pick in the 2013 draft — an obscure prospect scouted by only a handful of NBA teams.
Eight years later, he's a champion.
Here are eight stories that capture the astonishing rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
An uneven season, but signs of limitless potential
A few weeks after he concluded his rookie season with the Bucks in 2014, Antetokounmpo strolled through the buffet at Mandalay Bay filling up his plate. Las Vegas Summer League is one of the first rites of passage for incoming rookies and second-year players who still need some polishing, and the 19-year-old Antetokounmpo was getting additional reps after an uneven first season.
With his impossibly long arms, Antetokounmpo reached over an entire row of side dishes and scooped up some mashed potatoes from the far side of the buffet, then folded his 6-foot-10 frame into a table. The previous night against the Utah Jazz, Antetokounmpo assumed point guard duties for the Bucks' summer league squad. Though he appeared on only one of 100 Rookie of the Year ballots — a single third-place vote — Antetokounmpo tantalized the Bucks with flashes of jaw-dropping physical skills and the faint outlines of what could be a complete do-it-all star.
... read more
– July 21, 2021
Giannis Antetokounmpo Freak out! 50 power Milwaukee Bucks to