Giannis Scores 50 as Milwaukee Bucks First NBA Title Since 1971
Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered a historic 50-point performance when it mattered most to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA title since 1971, beating the Phoenix Suns 105-98 on Tuesday.
The Bucks captured the best-of-seven NBA Finals with four games for two, becoming only the fifth team to claim the crown after dropping the first two games.
Antetokounmpo, only the seventh player in Finals history to score a 50-point game, made 17-of-19 free throws, while adding 14 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Bucks made an NBA-best 10-1 at home in the playoffs to end a half-century title drought.
“I want to thank Milwaukee for trusting me. I want to thank my teammates for playing hard with me,” said Antetokounmpo. “I’m thankful I made it happen.”
The 26-year-old Greek forward equalized the highest-scoring evening in a close-out game in Finals history, Bob Pettit’s 1958 50-point effort for the St. Louis Hawks over Boston.
“He put us on his back. When we needed him, he told us to just feed him,” Bucks security guard Khris Middleton said. “It’s great to be with him on this journey.”
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Antetokounmpo, who was questionable for the opener with a hyperextended knee, equaled Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to win the NBA Finals MVP and NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season.
“He’s a special person. I’ve learned so much from him. He’s a special leader,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. “These players are champions every day. They have embraced to get better every day.”
Giannis EXPLODES for 33 of his 50 points in the 2nd half of Game 6, fueling the @Bucks Taco Bell Comeback on their way to their first NBA Championship in 50 years!
50 PTS14 REB5 BLK17-19 FTM pic.twitter.com/qDbk0nHWeb
— NBA (@NBA) July 21, 2021
An expansive “Deer District” party zone outside the sold-out 20,000-seat arena welcomed 65,000 people watching on video screens and having the party they’d hoped to enjoy.
“I’m glad I was able to do it with this team for Milwaukee,” said Antetokounmpo. “And Coach Bud says we should do it again.”
The Suns were foiled in their bid for the first crown in their 53-year history. Phoenix guard Chris Paul, who played in the first NBA final of his age at age 36, led the Suns by 26 points.
“It hurts. Very,” said Suns coach Monty Williams. “But I’m also grateful that we got this chance to play for the championship. In the fourth quarter it was pretty clear that we just couldn’t score enough. We just couldn’t convert.”
The relentless Antetokounmpo scored 12 of his 20 points in the third quarter in a 16-8 Bucks run that gave Milwaukee a 58-55 lead, only 4:34 in the second half.
He was the first to reach a quarter of 20 points in the final since Jordan and the game was on the edge, stalling at 77-77 going into the fourth quarter.
Antetokounmpo scored eight for the Bucks in a 10-6 Milwaukee run for a 94-88 lead midway through the fourth quarter, driving to the basket again and again as the Suns took the Bucks’ lead.
‘We haven’t stopped’
Phoenix’s Jae Crowder made two free throws to pull the Suns in 100-96 with 1:14 to go, but Middleton answered with a jumper and added two free throws for an eight-point lead over Milwaukee.
Paul missed a three-pointer, Middleton grabbed the rebound and Bucks fans started cheering.
“They made timely shots, we didn’t,” said Paul. “We weren’t stopped when we needed to and they just beat us.”
Middleton added 17 points for the Bucks, Bobby Portis had 16 from the Bucks bench and Jrue Holiday had 12 points and 11 assists.
Devin Booker added 19 points for Phoenix, while Crowder had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Suns.
Paul fell to 0-13 in play-off games when match-six umpire crew chief Scott Foster officiated. Paul had criticized Foster after previous outings.
The streak included Milwaukee’s win in game three of the final, in which Antetokounmpo had 17 free throws and the Suns only 16.
In game six, the Suns went 16-of-19 off the line, matching Antetokounmpo’s free throw total, while the Bucks were 25-of-29.
“It was the same old thing, just about every game, the free throws,” said Paul. “You know what I mean?”