Bucks in six. That’s for the culture.
Both teams spent the first few minutes of the opening quarter feeling each other out, committing turnovers and missing shots in seemingly equal measure. The defense for Phoenix and Milwaukee was similarly active, tough but clean all around, and after five stressful and low-scoring minutes the Bucks carried a 6-5 lead before a Mike Budenholzer timeout mercifully paused the action.
Got a lot of chaotic energy out on the floor at the moment. All ten players need a deep breath.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) July 21, 2021
Out of the timeout, Khris Middleton heat up with 7 straight points that threatened to blow the roof off of Fiserv Forum. The Suns eked out a few baskets but Milwaukee held tough, and Bobby Portis canned a three to force a Phoenix timeout with the Bucks leading 18-11 with three minutes remaining. Giannis Antetokounmpo got himself going with two straight layups and a pair of made free throws, and the Bucks’ suffocating paint defense closed the first quarter with a 29-16 Milwaukee advantage.
Cameron Payne gave Phoenix a spark at the start of the second, and a quick 10-0 run from the Suns brought the game back within reach. It was a mirror image of Game 5, where the home team jumped out to an impressive lead early while the road team worked their way back into things. Milwaukee did themselves no favors on offense, missing a dozen attempts over the first eight minutes of the second period as Phoenix ended up taking the lead, 39-36 with three minutes left before halftime. The Bucks’ offense remained in general disarray as the Suns found some good looks for themselves, and halftime commenced with the score 47-42, favoring Phoenix.
That was one ugly quarter for the Bucks:— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) July 21, 2021
4-for-20 from the field
0-for-8 on 3s.
Suns: 11-for-18, 2-for-3 on 3s, 7-for-8 from the line in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Milwaukee started showing some signs of life on offense, while Phoenix spammed the pick-and-roll to get midrange openings for Devin Booker and Chris Paul. Giannis continued his battering ram act and ended up retaking the lead with two free throws and a layup following his own miss, and the Bucks went up 58-55. Jae Crowder pulled off a four-point play following the timeout and Chris Paul started seeing some mid rangers drop through, but Brook Lopez answered with a string of huge baskets to buoy the Bucks’ offense. With Deandre Ayton on the bench in foul trouble, Milwaukee continued to attack the rim for the duration of the period but some mental gaffes allowed the Suns to close the gap that Milwaukee had created and the third quarter ended in a 77-77 tie.
The tension ratcheted up to an all-time high as the fourth quarter got underway, but Bobby Portis helped stabilize the offense (and antagonize Chris Paul) while Giannis grabbed a few minutes of rest and the Bucks pulled ahead 84-82. Upon reentering the game, Giannis persisted with his forays to the rim and earned – and made – a bunch of free throws, taking Ayton out of the game again and putting the Suns’ interior defense in shambles.
Greek Freak is HOOPING!!!!!!!— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 21, 2021
With a 94-90 lead and just under five minutes to go, Khris Middleton got loose for a midrange shot and PJ Tucker stripped Booker near half court to eat up valuable clock and pad the Milwaukee lead. Another Giannis bucket and another lucky miss pushed the lead to 100-92, and inside of two minutes the Bucks held onto a six-point lead. Two Jae Crowder free throws closed it to 100-96 with 1:14 left, but Khris Middleton hit an incredible pull-up just inside the one minute mark to build the lead back out to six. Devin Booker missed an open three on the other end and the Bucks forced Phoenix to foul and stop the clock for the remainder of the game.
And, oh yeah. The Milwaukee Bucks won the title as a result of closing out a tough game. A-mazing.
Stat That Stood Out
It’s been fifty years since the Milwaukee Bucks won the title. Many of us, myself included, weren’t even born in 1971. The NBA has cycled through generations of players and teams since Milwaukee has triumphed at this level and seized the league’s singular highest honor. That number is pretty big, but one number stands out even more: the number 34.
At the center of it all was Giannis Antetokounmpo, who posted a performance for the ages. The heart and soul of the Milwaukee Bucks put up 50 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocks. It was the type of game that sports fans will talk about for decades. Literally, a legacy-defining game. Giannis has reached the summit, and each and every teammate, coach, and member of the support staff deserves credit for their roles in this achievement.