By Adam Roberts – 7/5/2021
The high of the Milwaukee Bucks making the first NBA Finals since 1974 seemed to wear off pretty quickly for the Bucks players after the ECF win over Atlanta Saturday night.
While there were certainly plenty of smiles to be found in the locker room during postgame, I’d say the general tone was one of measured pride. After the last few postseasons, I don’t think anyone would have complained if the Bucks jumped for joy all night long. However, it seems the general consensus is that the job is not done, and that’s a great approach to take considering the task at hand.
Milwaukee will meet the Phoenix Suns in the 2021 NBA Finals, a team that joined the association the same year as the Bucks but without a championship to show for it. Their last trip to the finals was in 1993, resulting in a loss to MJ and the Bulls. This year is the best chance Phoenix has had at a title since Mike D’Antoni-Steve Nash era, and their roster consists of more potential scorers on one team than the Bucks have faced this postseason. Be it Devin Booker or Chris Paul shooting 34 and 40% from three this season respectively, Jae Crowder and Cameron Payne’s consistency at the free throw line, or Deandre Ayton giving the offense numerous second chances with offensive rebounds, this Suns team is built to score and score often.
Vegas certainly favors the Suns for this reason; Phoenix opened at -175 at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, with the Bucks listed as +150 underdogs. Phoenix is a 5.5-point favorite over Milwaukee in Game 1 on Tuesday as well. It should be noted these numbers are definitely skewed due to the fact that Giannis will likely miss at least the start of the series.
Despite this, watching how the Bucks rallied around each other after the series with Atlanta was knotted up following Giannis’s injury should provide fans some solace that unlike in the past, THIS Bucks team may have some closer genes. They’ve now come back down 3-2 to the Nets and come back from a 2-2 series without their #1 guy. Middleton and Holiday will need to decide who’s best served to defend against Booker or CP3, and from their the rest of the squad will need to continue the scrappy play they’ve manufactured over the last two games.
Do that, and this can at least be a pretty even series. Should Giannis be able to safely return, then things get REALLY interesting.
Either way, this series should be seen as a win for a league long lambasted for it’s “super teams” and a seeming lack of parity. Don’t let pundits convince you this season should have an asterisk attached. If anything, it’s the total opposite. Both of these teams have had to deal with their own injury/illness issues this postseason, and have found a way to make it work. You don’t get this deep in to a postseason as grinding as the NBA’s based on luck or chance.
Best of luck to both teams this series, and of course #BucksIn6.