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SPORTS SHORTS 176: MILWAUKEE BUCKS WINS NBA TITLE AFTER 50 YEARS, GIANNIS IS FINALS MVP

By Maloney L. Samaco
PhilBoxing.com
Thu, 22 Jul 2021



The Milwaukee Bucks ended their 50-year title drought with the help of the 50 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak held the Larry O'Brien Trophy for their championship in one arm, and the Bill Russel NBA Finals MVP trophy in the other.

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Antetokounmpo finished one of the most dramatic NBA Finals with 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 on Tuesday (Wednesday Philippine time) to win a pleasurable series 4-2 and round off a cheerful comeback of the droves of fans after last season's bubble.

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It was Giannis' third game of this Finals series with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. Antetokounmpo played a domineering finals debut that places him among the NBA's greatest players. He averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 61.8%, in the finals, the first in history to get those figures.

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He led the Milwaukee from a squad that won just 15 games in his rookie season to a champion team with 16 wins this postseason when it was finished. In the 2013–14 season, the Bucks finished with the worst record in the NBA at 15–67, also the worst record in team history.

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Giannis shot 16 for 25 from the field and made an amazing 17-of-19 free throws, an astounding performance from a shooter who just shot 55.6% in the line in the playoffs and often derided for it especially in hostile courts.

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''People told me I can't make free throws and I made them tonight. And I'm a freaking champion,'' Antetokounmpo said.

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He waved his arms with 20 seconds remaining to encourage fans to cheer. But their shout had been echoing inside and outside since the start. The fans waited 50 years to celebrate a winner after Lew Alcindor, before baptized into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Oscar Robertson led the Bucks to their first championship in 1971.

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Giannis was just the seventh player in NBA history to have 50 points in the Finals, joining Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, Jerry West, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. He became the first player in NBA history with 50 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks in a Finals game.

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On June 27, 2013, the Bucks chose Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo as the 15th overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft. He made his NBA debut on October 13, 2013, at the age of 18 years, 311 days, as one of the youngest NBA players ever.

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He is 6 ft 11 in, 242 lbs, becoming two-time NBA Most Valuable Player (2019, 2020), 5-time NBA All-Star (2017–2021), NBA All-Star Game MVP (2021), All-NBA First Team Member (2019–2021) and NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2020).

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Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, Greece on December 6, 1994, the son of immigrants from Nigeria. He averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 77 games during his rookie season.

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''For the city, I'm sure it means everything,'' said Khris Middleton, the other player left from that miserable 15-67 Bucks team in 2013-14. ''They've seen the work that we put in over the years for them to get to this point.''

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Middleton was selected by the Detroit Pistons as the 39th overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft. He received his first All-Star selection in 2019, then another one in 2020. The 6 ft 7 in member of Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics is from Charleston, South Carolina.

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The Bucks became the fifth team to win the NBA Finals after trailing 0-2. The other four teams were the 1969 Boston Celtics, 1977 Portland Trail Blazers, 2006 Miami Heat and the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers.

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The Bucks' odds to win all four games straight had roughly a 21% chance that they recover from the 0-2 deficit, which is significantly higher than the 14.3% success rate for former finalists or 7.1% rate for all playoff clubs.

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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 sadly missed all seven 3-pointers after scoring 40 points in each of the last two games.

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The Bucks and the Suns are teams that joined the NBA together as expansion clubs in 1968. The Suns were still without a title after 53 years.

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Giannis missed the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals with a hyperextended left knee, an injury fans feared that could be serious enough to end the season for him. But he just recovered in time for the Finals rallying his team from a 0-2 hole.

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Milwaukee had the NBA's best record in the 2018-19 season but blew a 2-0 lead against Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals.

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They came back the following season with the best record again but never recovered their momentum after the season was suspended because of the pandemic in March. They were eliminated in the second round by the Miami Heat in the Orlando bubble.

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The Bucks traded for Jrue Holiday before this season and even though they were not quite as strong in the regular season, they were already ready for the NBA Finals.

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Holiday was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft with the 17th overall pick. He was NBA All-Star in 2013 and a member of Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics. He was from Los Angeles, California and played one season with the UCLA Bruins.

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Middleton scored 17 points and Bobby Portis came off the bench with 16. Holiday had 12 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds plus his usual solid defense that handcuffed Devin Booker.

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''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.''

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The cheapest ticket for Finals Game 6 on StubHub was prized at $1,098 for a standing room only ticket. A seat at the cheapest was $1,588. A courtside seat cost $20,250 at the Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee. These made up the most expensive tickets in Wisconsin state history.

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The Suns returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 but they were still without a title and have never won more than two games in their three campaigns in the NBA Finals.

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The Suns scored their fewest points in a first quarter in this postseason when they had only 16. But they led at half time 47-42 when the Bucks scored only 13 at the second quarter.

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The game was tied at 77 after three quarters but Antetokoumpo fired 13 points in the fourth to ensure the Milwaukee fans that the Bucks would not return to Phoenix for Game 7 on Thursday.

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Milwaukee's only other NBA Finals appearance was a loss in 1974. The Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics defeated the Western Conference champion Milwaukee Bucks 4 games to 3 to win the NBA championship.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Maloney L. Samaco.

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