That’s it, it’s over, the Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions and Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo reigns atop the league.
The Bucks overcame a mighty challenge from the Phoenix Suns, but as it was prophesied years ago by Brandon Jennings, this series ended with Bucks In 6. This was anything but a coronation, a foregone conclusion from the start like title runs of the Golden State Warriors and last year’s Los Angeles Lakers.
This was an often ugly, muddy slog through four rounds of the NBA playoffs. They were tested by the snakebitten Brooklyn Nets and overcame a 2-0 deficit, holding off a ferocious effort from Kevin Durant in Game 7. After dismissing the Nets, they handled the Atlanta Hawks and Trae Young in the Eastern Conference Finals, even after losing Giannis to a hyperextended knee for the final two games of the series, both of which were wins.
The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions and Giannis Antetokounmpo is Finals MVP after one of the greatest performances in the history of the league.
In the NBA Finals, things started poorly for the Bucks. They lost the first two games of the series in Phoenix, and knowing that Antetokounmpo was playing through the pain of that knee injury made it seem like a quick defeat might be on the horizon.
It wasn’t the first time they trailed 2-0 in a series, though, and as frustrating as this Bucks team can be, they’re also a resilient and persistent team, and they’re led by a superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo who doesn’t have the ability to give up or let up.
Giannis started slowly in Game 1, scoring just 20 points and taking only 11 shots, and that fed the fury of fans and the most casual of observers who sought to detract from him. In Game 2, also a loss, he scored 42 points while shooting 15 of 22 from the floor and 11 of 18 from the free-throw line, adding 17 rebounds. He had a similar line in Game 3, this one a win, scoring 41 points o 14 of 23 shooting.
Once the Bucks got on the board with a victory, they had that momentum they needed and Antetokounmpo built upon it. This series culminated in a Game 6 victory in Milwaukee, and Giannis had a game for the ages to seal the win.
Sometimes we throw around the words “historic” and “greatest”, but Giannis Antetokounmpo had a game that fits these to a T. In this decisive Game 6, he scored 50 points, collected 14 rebounds, had five blocks, shot 16 of 25 from the floor, a shocking 17 of 19 from the free-throw line, and he became only the second player in NBA history to score 50 points in a closeout victory, joining Bob Pettit in this exclusive club.
Over the course of the NBA Finals, Antetokounmpo averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 combined steals and blocks while shooting 61.8 percent from the floor, and thanks to that absurd Game 6 free throw shooting performance, 65.9 percent from the stripe.
When the pressure was the greatest, when the fatigue of heavy, high-leverage minutes was setting in, when questions were being asked of Giannis, he provided every answer and shut down every run the Phoenix Suns tried to spark. Whether he is the best player in the NBA today or not is a debate for a different day, and quite frankly an obnoxious enough debate that we’re not in any rush to have to get to it, but right now, the reign of Giannis Antetokounmpo has begun.
This is his league now, and this NBA championship belongs to him and his Milwaukee Bucks.