Milwaukee Bucks Win NBA Title, Antetokounmpo Named Finals MVP
The Milwaukee Bucks, powered by an MVP performance from forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, ended its 50-year wait for a second NBA championship with a 105-98 win over the visiting Phoenix Suns, clinching the best-of-seven championship series 4-2 at the Fiserv Forum Arena.
Both teams got off to a shaky start that saw poor shooting on both ends of the court and plenty of turnovers but Milwaukee, powered by a determined Antetokounmpo, led 29-16 after the first quarter.
Phoenix, facing elimination for the first time in the 2021 playoffs, shook off their lowest-scoring first quarter of the postseason as they turned up the defence. Chris Paul led the offense and the Suns took a 47-42 lead into the half.
The Suns opened up a seven-point lead early in the third quarter but the Bucks responded with a 16-6 run that put them back in front. From there the teams went back and forth and took a 77-77 tie into the final quarter.
But Milwaukee, whose only other championship was a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Bullets in 1971, never trailed the rest of the way as Antetokounmpo took over on the offensive end to deny the Suns’ a chance to host a decisive seventh game as the game ended 105-98.
The Milwaukee Bucks became only the fifth team to win the best-of-seven championship series after losing the first two games.
Antetokounmpo was named most valuable player of the series, making him only the fifth international winner, after scoring a playoff career-high 50 points in the clinching game that put a smile on all the faces of Bucks fans.
“This is a feeling, like this is an addictive feeling,” Antetokounmpo, who was born in Greece to Nigerian parents, said after the game.
“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.”
Antetokounmpo, who was born and raised in Athens to Nigerian parents, joins Dirk Nowitzki (2011), Tony Parker (2007), Tim Duncan (1999, 2005 and 2003) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1994 and 1995) as the only international players to be named NBA Finals MVP.
Phoenix overcame a slow start and led by as many as seven points early in the third quarter but could not contain the dominant and determined Antetokounmpo.
Suns guard Chris Paul had a team-high 26 points. For Phoenix, who were seeking their first championship in the team’s 53-year existence, the defeat marked the first time all season they have lost four consecutive games.
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.