Written by Marvin. A. Azrak
The final seconds ticked off the clock on Tuesday night at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee,Wisconsin putting an end to what will go down as a night the city of Miwaulkee will never forget, as the final scoreboard read: Bucks 105 Suns 98, meaning the “Deer District” were finally NBA champions. This claim to fame had been a couple years in the making with homegrown star GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO
taking home back to back MVP awards in 2019 and 2020, but all that mattered to him and Bucks nation was a championship, which eluded him in the postseason in both seasons. So it was onto to 2021, where Bucks coach Mike Budenhozer was on the hot seat with management demanding title this season “Or else…”
But if you asked “Bud” to draw up a contest that would define a season that in many ways saw four different Bucks teams at any given moment, it would without a doubt be the Finals-clincher, as game six against the feisty Phoenix Suns not only defined what a game of this magnitude should feel like, but also prove just how deep this Bucks team needed to dig, to bring home a golden trophy 50 years in the making.
PART 1: OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES
The Bucks started the season off to a relatively sluggish 2-3 start, and it was mainly attributed to their inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball. That was evident once again in this contest, as both come out with anxiety, missing a n abundance of open looks perhaps nervous about what they’re getting into. shooting well. It seems like both teams are trying to strike the first blow but due to the physicality haven’t gotten opportunities to do so. A Chris paul straightaway three for Phoenix silenced the raucous Bucks crowd, causing Budenhozer to call the game’s first timeout, with just 6:51 left in the first quarter of play, with the Bucks only leading 6-5. Once again it seemed at the worst time, the team’s struggles were coming back to haunt them, but Khris Middelton and CO had other ideas this time.
PART 2: GIANNIS WHO?
Right out of the timeout, all-star Khris Middleton started to heat up now, carrying the Bucks offensive load, as they slowly started to stretched their lead to 18-11, after a Bobby Portis three ball caused Suns coach Monty Williams to be the one needing to talk it over, as the crowd in addition to the 65,00 outside the arena at “Deer District Plaza” was in a frenzy. Once again without Giannis even being a factor just like they did numerous times in their 46-26 regular season, and and in the final two games of their six game Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, this team found a way to thrive without their superstar.
A couple of Bobby Portis 3’s maintained the Milwaukee advantage,eventually giving Giannis just enough time to get his rhythm going, as the late eruption led to him finishing with 10 first quarter points, keying to a 29-16 Bucks advantage through 12 minutes of play. The only question was “How long can they keep this going for?”
PART 3: CAN’T PLAY DEFENSE
Cameron Payne began the second quarter with the exact spark that the Suns needed. 10 points off the bench in the first half for him leads to a quick 8-0 run for Phoenix has cut the deficit down 29-24, forcing a Bucks timeout. They went from an unstoppable force, to a team that suddenly couldn’t guard a stop sign which is what they looked like in game two of their second round series against the powerhouse Brooklyn Nets,losing 125-86 going down 2-0 in that series, before rallying to win it in seven games.
Miakel Bridges and CP3(AKA Chris Paul) helped the Suns claw their way back into the contest, who took a 39-36 lead late in the first half, Living legend Chris Paul didn’t want to go home eliminated he wanted a game seven, and his 13 first half points, was a key reason why Phoenix outscored the Bucks 31-13 in the second frame, to take a 47-42 lead at the break. GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO
only had 17 points, as the Suns were now making their presence felt in a series they once led two games to zero, before the third portion of Milwaukee basketball came to play.
PART 4: THE GIANNIS EFFECT
As NBA fans, this portion of Bucks basketball had been on display throughout the last couple of seasons but had never been kicked into high gear when it counted the most in the playoffs. However , in 2021, we saw a more engaged, and a more determined GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO
, who propelled the Bucks to a series sweep of the Miami Heat in round one, (Exacting revenge from last year’s postseason when the Heat stunned the Bucks in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals), a 40 point ,13 rebound performance in game seven against the Kevin Durant-led Brooklyn Nets, and an iconic game-saving rejection on Suns star Deandre Ayton game four of these finals to even the series at two game apice at the time. Game five was no different, as Atentekumpo poured in 32 points, including finishing a late alley-oop in transition from Jrue Holiday, before knocking down a free throw to ice the game, and put his team oh so close to glory. But at the halfway mark in game six, we hadn’t seen the “Giannis effect” take center stage just yet, which started to make Milwaukee a bit tentative in the stands, wondering if the party of a lifetime wouldn’t take place tonight after all.
But once that third quarter began, Giannis suddenly became a man possed, and turned into “ A beast”, now scoring the ball through will skill, and heart seemingly putting the entire city on his back now, single-handily recapturing the lead for the Bucks, scoring a dozen points within the first 4:30 of the period reigniting all of Wisconsin to the tune of “Bucks in Six” chants , for they had seized back the lead at 58-55.
Giannis was also sharing the ball too, making a quick pass to Jrue Holiday, who buried a corner three as the shot clock expired sending this crowd into delirium, as the Bucks had extended the lead at that point to 71-66, and although the Suns would rally to even the score at 77 when the frame came to a close, you could feel that with his 20 third Quarter points bringing his game total to 37, the “Giannis Effect” was in full swing. All that was left was one final stretch, where Atentekumpo’s true colors would be shown off to the world.
Their was no doubt Giannis ANTETOKOUNMPO is one of the best players in basketball, playe, but when push came to shove, the one thing that separated him from the superstars of the game such as Stephan Curry of the Golden State Warriors , and Kawhi Leanord of the Los Angeles Clippers was his poor free-throw shooting. Earlier in this championship run, Giannis was called for a “10 second violation”, meaning he had taken too long to put his foul shot up, prompting opposing crowds to start counting aloud in full throat, just how long Atentekumpo was taking to get up his foul shots and at times, it did seem to rattle him, with some lackluster air balls being all the evidence we as fans needed. But tonight, Giannis wasn’t even going to let his glaring weakness stop him from delivering on a promise he made to the city of Miwaulkee back in 2014 when he was drafted. “I’ll never leave this city until we build a champion.”, Atentekumpo said at the time and although nobody would’ve blamed him if he was gone by now, Giannis was loyal to white and green, with this gaje being as evident as ever. Giannis went 16-18 from the line in this one, for a total of 50 points for NBA finals MVP honors, proving to be the difference in this historic accomplishment, as a Khris Middleton fall away jumper put the Bucks up 102-96 with 60 seconds left, was the cherry on top of a memorable series, as it was now time to start the celebration in and outside of the Fizerv Forum.
But not only does this triumph cement Giannis ANTETOKOUNMPO as a force in the league, it also saves coach Mike Budenhozers job for at least a couple more years. In addition to that, it proves that if organizations can stay true to who they draft, they too can be like Giannis ANTETOKOUNMPO and Khris Middleton, who were homegrown Bucks talent chasing history that was eight years in the making since when they began playing together in their rookie seasons. The morale of this teams title run can be attributed to the fact that sometimes, “Saving your best for last will get you the last laugh”, which is precisely what Giannis did for the Bucks, and the city of Miwaulkee .
So how does one celebrate a 50 point performance to bring home his first teams title in 50 years? Well, Giannis Atentekumbo went out on Wednesday morning, and ordered a “50-piece” and a large drink, before fans around the scene recognized it was their beloved superstar who was now at the top of the NBA world,also cited, at the championship parade on Thursday, “I hope I get to order from that place for the rest of my life it was so good.”
After that, Giannis got down to business saying this title was “For the city”, and that everyone deserves a chance to bask in the glory, and be a part of Milwaukee sports history.
Marvin Azrak is a member of the Jewish Voice student journalists initiative program. He specializes in sports writing