— The Milwaukee Bucks were an instant success in the NBA, winning a
championship in just their third season and reaching the Finals
again three years later.
half-century later, they finally have a shot at another title.
Middleton scored 32 points, including a run of 16 straight in a
decisive third quarter that carried the Bucks to a 118-107 victory
over the upstart Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference
finals Saturday night.
the series 4-2, advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time
since 1974. Game 1 against the West champion Suns is Tuesday night
didn’t even need Giannis Antetokounmpo to lock up their spot. The
two-time MVP missed his second straight game with a knee injury,
but Middleton & Co. had his back.
added 27 points and four other players scored in double
cheered them on from the bench.
“One of the
biggest things we did the last two games was play for him,” said
Pat Connaughton, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. “We do have
a true team.”
returned to the Hawks' lineup after missing two games with a bone
bruise in his right foot, but the young star never got anything
going. After both teams struggled to find the range in the first
half, the Bucks suddenly couldn’t miss in the third quarter.
actually had a chance for its first lead of the game when Young’s
behind-the-back pass gave Kevin Huerter an open look from
three-point range. The shot rimmed out, and Middleton quickly
ripped off the next 13 points to suddenly push Milwaukee’s edge to
up the one-man onslaught with a driving basket, but Middleton
responded with a three-pointer that gave him 16 straight Milwaukee
finished the quarter with 23 points, nearly outscoring the Hawks
all by himself. Atlanta had 29 points in the period as Milwaukee
headed to the final quarter with a commanding 91-72 lead.
and my coaches, they told me to keep being aggressive,” Middleton
said. “I love it. Each one of these guys, they work every single
day. Everybody stays ready. Everybody stays locked in. We all play
for each other. And that’s all you can ask for.”
who missed much of the season with an Achilles
injury, came off the bench to spark the
Hawks. He scored 21 points — making six of seven three-pointers —
as the Hawks sliced a 22-point deficit down to six in the closing
was, ‘No regrets. We don’t want any regrets... Empty the tank,’”
said Nate McMillan, the Hawks interim coach. “And they did.”
But the Bucks
finished it off, rekindling memories of the franchise’s early years
when Milwaukee quickly became the center of the NBA world with a
team led by two of the game’s greatest players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
and Oscar Robertson.
The duo led
the team to its only NBA title in 1971. The Bucks returned to
finals in ’74, only to lose to the Boston Celtics in seven
retired after that season and Abdul-Jabbar was dealt a year later
to the Los Angeles Lakers, ending Milwaukee’s run as a glamour
Bucks are back in the finals with a whole new group of stars. As
they proved in the last two games against the Hawks, they’re
certainly more than the Greek Freak.
Antetokounmpo sidelined by a hyperextended left knee, the Bucks
turned to his supporting cast to finish off Atlanta. Brook Lopez
had 33 points in Game 5, and three other starters scored at least
Holiday carried the load in the deciding game.
have put the work in all year. They deserve to go to the Finals,”
said Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer, who previously coached the
Hawks. “We’ve got more work to do.”
disappointing finish, the Hawks stamped themselves as a future
force with a young group that knocked off the New York Knicks and
the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers to surprisingly advance to
the conference finals.
14-20 when they fired coach Lloyd
Pierce shortly before the All-Star break, Atlanta went on
a run under McMillan that carried the Hawks to the playoffs for the
first time since 2017.
stop there, advancing to the conference finals for only the second
time with Young leading the way.
understand this is just beginning,” Young said. “It was fun to have
this city excited. We want to keep it like that.”
Games 4 and 5 with a bone bruise in his right foot, Young was
cleared to play shortly before tipoff Saturday night. The crowd
went nuts when the charismatic point guard was the introduced as
the final member of the starting five.
baaaaack!” the public-address announcer screamed.
he wasn’t all the way back.
nearly week-long layoff, Young seemed tentative and out of sorts.
Sure, he flashed a bit of his old form on a couple of bursts to the
basket, but 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting was not at all what the
Hawks had come to expect from their breakout star.
wanted to battle and try to fight through it as much as I could,
try to be out there for my team,” Young said. “But it was
definitely frustrating not being healthy and not being able to give
my full 100%.”
the Hawks focused on doing a better job in the lane, Lopez was held
to 13 points. ... Bobby Portis had 12 points and nine rebounds in
his second straight start for Antetokounmpo. ... Jeff Teague, who
played for the Hawks when they reached the conference final in
2015, scored 11 points in just over 12 minutes of playing time off
Huerter, the surprising star of Atlanta’s Game 7 win over
Philadelphia, closed the season with only five points on 2-of-10
shooting. ... Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 20 points. ... Atlanta
finished 38 of 92 (41.3%) from the field.
seemed capable of winning in the first half.
only 15-49 shots (30.6%), including 4-16 from beyond the
three-point arc, with nine turnovers. The Bucks weren’t much
better, connecting on 17-44 (38.6%) overall and just 5-19 outside
the stripe. Milwaukee turned it over 10 times, split evenly between
Middleton and Holiday.
Appropriately, the half ended with Atlanta’s Clint Capela missing
right under the basket off a lob pass from Bogdanovic, sending the
Bucks to the locker room with a 47-43 lead.
PLAYING WITH THE LEAD
there were no lead changes over the final three games of the
never trailed in Game 4, romping to a 110-88 victory. Milwaukee
returned the favor in Game 5, building a 20-point lead in the first
quarter and staying out front all the way in a 123-112 triumph.
It was more
of the same in the deciding game, which the Bucks led from start to