Fifty years after their last title, the Milwaukee Bucks are NBA Champions again. Giannis Antetokounmpo has cemented himself along with Jordan, Kobe, and LeBron in delivering one of the best all-time NBA Finals performances. And I suspect this is just the beginning of the Bucks’ dynasty.
Milwaukee overcame an 0-2 hole for the second time this postseason, battling back to take the next 4 against the Phoenix Suns to grab their first Larry O since 1971. The Suns looked poised to run away with the series after the first 2 games in Phoenix went their way. But, Giannis and company battled back with a dominant performance in game 3 and came from 16 down in the first quarter to win game 5 on the road in Phoenix, where the Suns had been 8-2 in the playoffs to that point.
MVP, MVP, MVP
Those are the chants that reigned down from the Fiserv Forum as Giannis Antetokoumpo added an NBA Finals MVP trophy to go along with his first NBA title. Aside from his dominant 50 point performance in Game 6, he also had 40-plus point showings in Games 2 & 3. He became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal (2000) to record 3 or more 40-point games in a finals. He also became the first player to record multiple 30-point halves in the NBA Finals in the last 40 years. In short, this Finals was historic for Giannis in almost every way.
The Sun Still Shines Bright
The only unfortunate thing about watching two great teams in the Finals is knowing that one will be going home empty handed. It started to look that way in Game 4 of these finals when it seemed the Suns just didn’t have a solution for Giannis underneath. Losing Dario Šarić in Game 1 really seemed to give Giannis an opening under the hoop, which he took full advantage of for the rest of the series. The Suns just weren’t able to gain back the defensive depth lost when Šarić went down. Chris Paul went under 20pts in games 3 & 4. Devon Booker had two 40 point games, but the Suns couldn’t match the secondary output the Bucks got from Jrue Holiday (27pts, 13 assists in Game 4) and Kris Middleton (40 points in game 4)
This series aside, there is much to look forward to with these Suns. After missing the postseason in the bubble last year, they made all the right moves and became the talk of the NBA in 2021. The West isn’t as cut and dry as the East, with more contenders poised to take next steps next year. When you have players such as LeBron, Steph, Kawhi, Murray and Luka heading teams in the West, the Suns’ path back to the Finals may not be as easy as the Bucks’ path, but it’s doable.
The Buck Doesn’t Stop Here
So let’s talk repeat chances for the Milwaukee Bucks for a moment if we could. I mentioned the Suns’ path back to the finals was hard. The Bucks’ path back looks to only be hampered by a few teams in the East. The Nets and Sixers are (at this point) the only two challengers to a return trip to the finals for the Bucks next year. The Nets’ Big 3 weren’t on the floor very much together since the acquisition of James Harden in January, so it remains to be seen what a fully healthy Brooklyn team can do. The Sixers also remain a threat with Embid, Ben Simmons and Seth Curry locked in for a few more years. And of course we can’t count out the Hawks adding on to the success they saw in 2021. And everything changes if Damian Lillard joins the battle in the East.
But right now, the Milwakee Bucks are your NBA Champions. Their big 3 isn’t going anywhere, and when you add Brook Lopez into that mix, 4 of their 5 starters are locked in for at least the next 3 seasons. This may only be the beginning of the Bucks’ Dynasty. But, of course, time will tell.
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