regular-season games between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns
this season fit the same script. Both were extremely high scoring.
Both went down to the wire. Both saw Phoenix win by a single point,
with a free throw by Devin Booker ending up as the game-winner each
There was also
this: Giannis Antetokounmpo couldn’t be guarded in either game.
And now, it’s
the Bucks and Suns — forever tied together after Milwaukee won a
1969 coin flip after the teams’ first seasons for Lew Alcindor — in
the NBA Finals, with Antetokounmpo’s status a major question.
The NBA’s title
series is set: Game 1 between the Bucks and Suns will be in Phoenix
on Tuesday night, the last matchup of this compressed season that
navigated its way through the coronavirus pandemic, players and
coaches testing positive for COVID-19, and a slew of injuries to some of the
game’s biggest stars — Antetokounmpo and Phoenix’s Chris Paul
Paul is back,
set to play in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career.
can only hope to be that fortunate.
NBA MVP averaged 40 points on 60% shooting against the Suns this
season, but hyperextended his left knee during Game 4 of the
Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta. The Bucks went 2-0 in
the two full games that Antetokounmpo missed to win that series in
six games, eliminating the Hawks in Atlanta on Saturday night and
earning the team’s first NBA Finals berth since 1974.
“We’ve got more
work to do,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said during the East
The Bucks lost
125-124 in Phoenix on Feb. 10, then lost 128-127 to the Suns in
overtime at Milwaukee on April 19.
its lone NBA title in 1971. The Suns have never won a championship,
last getting to the Finals in 1993. They also lost the Finals in
advancing to the NBA Finals means USA Basketball will be more than
a bit short-handed when it starts Olympic training camp in Las
Vegas on Tuesday. The U.S. has a 12-man team for the Tokyo Games
— and three of those 12, the Suns’ Booker and Milwaukee’s Khris
Middleton and Jrue Holiday — will be otherwise engaged for the next
Game 7 of the
NBA Finals, if the series goes the distance, would be July 22. The
Olympics open July 23 and the first U.S. game in Tokyo is July 25
against France. USA Basketball will arrange to get Booker,
Middleton and Holiday to Tokyo as quickly as possible if the
American team leaves for Japan while the finals are still
“It could be
worse,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “I
guess one option is we’re going to have nine players for the first
game against France. That’s the worst-case scenario.”
No player on
either team has ever won an NBA championship. Nobody on the Bucks'
roster has ever appeared in the NBA Finals; Milwaukee is hoping to
join the 2015 Golden State Warriors as recent teams that won the
championship despite having zero Finals experience.
The Suns have
only one player with previous NBA Finals experience: Jae Crowder,
who went to the Finals with Miami last season. Then, he chose to
sign a three-year deal with Phoenix last offseason.
“I knew our
potential,” Crowder said. “I knew where we could get to, the level
of basketball we could play, when I first got here. I just knew it
was a special group. I knew we had a chance to do something
The Suns indeed
have that chance.
So, now, do the
One of them is
only four wins from hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.