The Jerusalem Post

Bucks finish off Suns to take championsh­ip

Giannis nets 50 points in epic close-out performanc­e as Milwaukee earns 1st title in 50 years

- COMMENTARY • By JEFF ZILLGITT

Beauty is a not a requiremen­t for championsh­ips. The aesthetics of Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals won’t be remembered by the Milwaukee Bucks or their fans.

All they will remember is the joy of winning a title and career-defining performanc­e from two-time MVP Giannis Antetokoun­mpo.

TheBucksde­featedtheP­hoenixSuns­10598 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, giving Milwaukee its first championsh­ip since 1971 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson propelled the Bucks over the Baltimore Bullets.

Unlike last year’s NBA Finals when the celebrator­y screams of the Los Angeles Lakers echoed across an arena void of fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bucks’ win kicked off a wild party for both a capacity crowd of 17,000 inside and the 65,000 supporters who attended a watch party outside the arena.

“We made it, we crowned a champion,” NBA Commission­er Adam Silver said during the trophy presentati­on.

“I have to say, playing through a pandemic required enormous resilience from all 30 teams. Thank you to every team and every player in the league for a tremendous season.”

And, as it should be, Antetokoun­mpo, a two-time MVP, carried the Bucks in a career-defining effort.

Named Finals MVP, Antetokoun­mpo scored 50 points, collected 14 rebounds and had five blocks, and just as important as his 16-for-25 shooting from the field was, the notoriousl­y below-average free throw shooter, made 17-for-19 foul shots.

His 50 points were sixth-highest scoring performanc­e in Finals history, according to basketball-reference.com.

In the final three games of the series – all close contests – Milwaukee proved to be the more poised team.

In a 77-77 game after three quarters, Milwaukee outscored Phoenix 28-21 in the final quarter. Khris Middleton’s midrange

jumper with 56.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave the Bucks a 10296 lead.

The Bucks are the fifth NBA team in 36 times to lose the first two games of a Finals series and win the title.

Antetokoun­mpo joins Chicago Bulls Hall of Famer Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Finals MVP and All-Star Game MVP.

Here are four key takeaways from

Milwaukee’s close-out victory:

Antetokoun­mpo dominates

The two-time MVP – and first-time Finals MVP – had third game with at least 40 points in the Finals to go along another game with at least 30.

He had 20 points in the third quarter, and 30 of his points were scored in the paint where he dominated throughout the series.

Yes, he overpowere­d the Suns at the rim, but his free throws in a closeout game were necessary in a tight game. It was the best postseason free-throw shooting performanc­e of his career.

It was a special night for Antetokoun­mpo.

He had a block in the early minutes of the game, and his defensive effort combined with his offense made sure the series didn’t go back to Phoenix for Game 7.

“This is a feeling, like this is an addictive feeling,” Antetokoun­mpo, who was born in Greece to Nigerian parents, told reporters.

“I love playing in the playoffs. I love playing in the Finals. This is the moments I want to chase. I want the team to build off this and hopefully we can do it again.”

Giannis and Thanasis Antetokoun­mpo became NBA champions on Tuesday with the Milwaukee Bucks, putting them level with younger brother Kostas and making them the first trio of brothers to win a league title.

Kostas, 23, played for the Lakers team that won last year’s NBA championsh­ip, which naturally made for some good-natured family jokes.

“Obviously at the dinner table it was awkward a little bit because he had the ring before me,” Giannis, 26, said during an on-court interview. “But now me and Thanasis have ours.”

Paul leads the way for Suns

With his fellow starters struggling, Paul, along with Cam Payne, carried Phoenix in the first half. He had 10 of his 13 firsthalf points in the second quarter when the Suns shut down the Bucks’ offense and took a 47-42 halftime lead. He also four assists.

In what was Paul’s best chance to win a championsh­ip in his 16 seasons, he had 16 points and five assists.

“Everybody in that locker room knows we had enough, but it wasn’t enough,” Paul told reporters.

“So, we got to figure it out. I think for me I just look at myself and figure out how can I get better, what I could have done more and make sure I come back next season ready to do it again.”

Finals lessons for Booker, Ayton

Devin Booker is a star and played like one in the Finals: 58 points in the first two games, back-to-back 40-point efforts in Games 4 and 5.

But in Game 6, he went 8-for-22 from the field, including 0-for-7 on threes. He was 4-for-13 from the field and 0-for-4 on threes midway through the third quarter and finished with 19 points and six turnovers.

Ayton, who had a moment or two in the Finals, struggled offensivel­y with 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting and spent time on the bench again with foul trouble.

But the entire playoff run was an experience that will benefit both players.

Just enough help for Giannis

Midway through the third quarter, Antetokoun­mpo and Bobby Portis were the only Bucks players in double figures.

Portis finished with 16 points, Jrue Holiday had 12 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, and Middleton had 17 points.

The Bucks shot 45.1% from the field and just 22.2% on three-pointers. But they made shots when they were necessary, especially in the second half when they went 56% from the field.

 ?? (Reuters) ?? MILWAUKEE BUCKS FORWARD Giannis Antetokoun­mpo (center) celebrates with the NBA Finals MVP Trophy following Bucks’ 105-98 Game 6 Finals victory at home over the Phoenix Suns late Tuesday night to capture championsh­ip.
(Reuters) MILWAUKEE BUCKS FORWARD Giannis Antetokoun­mpo (center) celebrates with the NBA Finals MVP Trophy following Bucks’ 105-98 Game 6 Finals victory at home over the Phoenix Suns late Tuesday night to capture championsh­ip.
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