Giannis Antetokounmpo is an NBA champion. The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions.
In an iconic performance worthy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who last led the Bucks to a title in 1971, Antetokounmpo scored 33 of his 50 points after halftime of Game 6 to beat the Phoenix Suns, 105-98.
Antetokounmpo marked one of the great Finals performances in league history with 16 of 25 field goals, 16 of 17 free throws, 14 rebounds and five blocks in 42 minutes. He left no doubt as to who is the Finals MVP.
The Bucks got just 29 points on 10-of-32 shooting combined from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, but wide-eyed reserve Bobby Portis contributed 16 points and each of Brook Lopez’s 10 points resonated.
Chris Paul led the Suns with 26 points. Devin Booker add 19 points on 22 shots.
The first 3:19 of the fourth quarter was played within one possession, until an Antetetokounmpo tip-in put the Bucks up 86-82. Paul answered with a quintessential mid-range jumper, but Antetokounmpo’s four straight free throws and a Portis layup gave the Bucks a 92-86 lead that put pressure on Phoenix to fold.
Both teams battled nerves early, combining for three field goals on 15 attempts and six turnovers in the first five minutes. Middleton was first to find his rhythm, scoring seven straight points for a 15-7 cushion. Portis and Antetekounmpo each took turns scoring six straight, pushing the advantage to 29-16 by quarter’s end.
In a sure sign of trouble, Cam Payne’s five points off the bench led the Suns in the first quarter, but he scored another five to ignite a 10-0 run to start the second. It was not unlike the counterpunch the Bucks threw in the second quarter of Game 5 in Phoenix. By the midway point, Paul’s layup tied Game 6 at 33, and a pair of DeAndre Ayton free throws gave the Suns their first lead inside of five minutes before halftime.
Led by Paul’s 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting, the Suns shot 61% in the second quarter (11-18 FG) to the Bucks’ 20% (4-20 FG), and Phoenix outscored Milwaukee 31-13 in the frame to take a 47-42 halftime lead.
Sniffing a ring, Antetokounmpo owned the third quarter, scoring 14 of Milwaukee’s first 18 points after the break and dropping 20 total in the stanza. His burst returned the lead to the Bucks, and six straight points from Brook Lopez — including a thunderous dunk that ignited the crowd — extended their edge to 66-61.
A four-point play from Jae Crowder and inspired effort from backup center Frank Kaminsky helped the Suns withstand the onslaught. With Ayton in foul trouble and Paul resting, Booker helmed a 14-9 run to close the third, scoring or assisting on the final 10 points to even the score entering the fourth, 77-77.
But Giannis would not be denied, scoring 50 points for the 50 years since the Bucks last were champions.
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