The Milwaukee Bucks have completed an epic comeback in the NBA Finals and won 4 straight games to clinch their first championship in 50 years. The last time the Bucks won the championship, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the man hoisting the trophy. Now, it is Giannis Antetokounmpo and a crew of rough riders who earned their trophy after a hard-fought season.
While credit is due to the Phoenix Suns for making it to the Finals and having a terrific season, the Bucks were the better team in the Finals on both ends of the floor. Thanks to 5 key reasons, the Bucks are on top of the NBA world with celebrations to commence for the next few days in the city of Milwaukee. Here are the 5 biggest factors that allowed the Bucks to climb out of a 0-2 hole and complete a historic and unexpected victory in the 2021 Finals.
5. Mike Budenholzer Adjustments
Head coach Monty Williams was stealing all the headlines by leading a young Phoenix Suns team to the NBA Finals out of nowhere. Monty was making critical adjustments all playoffs and trusted his leader Chris Paul to be his extension on the court. But in the Finals, he was usurped by veteran coach Mike Budenholzer. Budenholzer was under a tight microscope for the past 2 seasons, because the Bucks were never able to achieve their goals in the postseason. Especially this postseason, had the Bucks not won the series, it was almost certain Mike Budenholzer would have been fired.
That goes to show the unfair nature of professional sports, where one man can be out of a job depending on a win or a loss. But he has been tremendous for Milwaukee, improving the team and making them one of the best teams in the world over the past few years. In the Finals, Budenholzer was the ultimate motivator who trusted Giannis and even Khris Middleton to make the big plays. He made sure Jrue Holiday followed Chris Paul everywhere he went, and it was the coaching instructions to play tight defense and trust Middleton in crunch time. Monty Williams is a great coach with a great future, but this was Mike Budenholzer’s time.
4. Phoenix Couldn't Close The Deal
Up 2-0 with one of the greatest point guards ever on their squad, Phoenix blew an opportunity to place their foot on Milwaukee’s neck multiple times in this series. They had a shot in Game 3 but were blown out by 20 points due to a putrid 10-point performance by Devin Booker. They had another chance in Game 4, but Chris Paul looked a shell of himself and Middleton dropped 40 to tie the series. Phoenix even had a great shot to win Game 5, but Chris Paul was loose with the ball at times and not even a 40-point showing by Booker was enough to take another lead in this series.
Once Phoenix blew Game 5, it was all but over. There was a slim chance that the Suns could defeat the Bucks back in Milwaukee, especially when the Bucks had all the momentum. Phoenix had a tremendous season and have some great players on their squad, but they simply couldn’t close the deal. That is mainly because Phoenix have a young coach, young stars, and a long road ahead of them to reach that next level as a team. They will get there in due time, but the Suns fell to the experience of the Bucks roster and coaching staff.
3. Bucks Organization Made Shrewd Moves To Set The Team Up For Success
The Bucks organization is one of the best-run in the world right now. The management have been hell-bent on building a title contender ever since Giannis arrived as a superstar, and have slowly improved the roster over the past few years. For one, they solidified their core by believing Giannis and Middleton can win together. They made Brook Lopez a full-time starter even though he is an above-average rebounder for his size, although he is a terrific shot-blocker who can space the floor. They even built team-wide precedence for lockdown defensive play which is an extension of their coaching staff.
But the offseason and trade deadline moves they made this year gave them the boost to get over the hump. Even if Jrue Holiday was inconsistent offensively, the Bucks do not win without his defense and hustle. Many were scratching their heads when Holiday was signed to a max deal, but he proved his worth by playing lockdown defense, hustling for loose balls, and doing the dirty work. The moves to acquire veterans PJ Tucker and Bobby Portis also improved their defense and toughness, placing the team in a position to always compete on defense.
2. The Co-Stars Showed Up In A Big Way
Jrue Holiday was terrific on defense and never took a play off even if his shot wasn’t falling at times. His hustle and belief in himself as a two-way player made him invaluable to the Bucks, who desperately needed that 3rd star to get over the hump. Holiday earned every penny for his performances in the postseason and deserves all the credit in the world. But without a doubt, Khris Middleton was near-perfection as a sidekick.
Middleton had a terrific postseason, averaging 23.9 PPG on 34.5% shooting from three. Even if he had some off-games, he was always remaining aggressive and was excellent defensively. But Middleton’s confidence was great to see. He was so great that many pundits were calling him the “Batman” of the team because he hit countless clutch shots to give his team breathing room. His contested jump shot to put the Bucks up 6 with 59.6 seconds left was yet another example of his terrific play. Jrue Holiday played perfectly in his role and Middleton was clutch for his team, allowing the best player in the world to truly shine.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo Is The Best Player In The World
At the end of the day, when all the dust settles, the best player in the world is normally the reason their team wins the championship. And that was the case for Giannis Antetokounmpo, the best two-way superstar in the NBA. Giannis faced countless criticism the past 2 years, whether it was his inability to be consistent from three or his absurdly long free-throw routines. But no matter what anyone says, it was Giannis who was the best player on the Bucks and the reason Milwaukee have been title contenders the past few years. No player in the game today has the size and athleticism of Giannis, and he has improved his game every single season with the gifts he was given.
From Most Improved Player to 2-time MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis has found ways to continue to become one of the all-time greats at his position. At only 26 years old, the sky is the limit for The Greek Freak. Giannis was near perfection in the closeout Game 6, nailing 17-19 free throws and dominating on both ends of the floor. He never let the criticism get to him, put his head down, and went to work every season. Even when people were claiming he should leave Milwaukee and win somewhere else, he made a promise to the Bucks organization to win a championship and he delivered. Giannis earned his first Finals MVP Award and first NBA title to place him in Hall of Fame status already, and as things stand, we are already looking at one of the greatest forwards to have ever played the game.
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