With the Clippers and Hawks now on holiday, we have our NBA Finals for the 2020-21 season: Milwaukee Bucks v Phoenix Suns.
Suns Seal It
The Phoenix Suns are playing in the NBA Finals!
Chris Paul, the Point God, wasn’t letting this series get to seven games and put the Suns on his back to seal it in six.
With 41 points, four rebounds and eight assists, Paul showed exactly why the Suns signed him as his experience and leadership came to the fore in the 130-103 win.
The LA Clippers kept it relatively close through to halftime in this one. Credit where it is due, they’ve performed exceptionally well without Kawhi Leonard recently and this series could have ended a lot different if he had been healthy. However, Paul’s 31 points in the second half blew the score out as the Suns booked a spot in the Finals for the first time since 1993. For Paul, quite remarkably, it’s the first time he is playing in the season-deciding series after entering the league in 2005.
Chris Paul or Khris Middleton will be an NBA champion soon.
Have a wonderful night.
— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) July 4, 2021
With Giannis Antetokounmpo sat on the sideline and the Atlanta Hawks hanging around like a bad smell, Khris Middleton stepped up and sent the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA Finals.
He scored sixteen straight points in the third quarter of their series-clinching 118-107 Game 6 win. Middleton’s 23 points in the quarter were part of a 44-point quarter from the Bucks as they entered the 4th with a 91-72 lead. While the Hawks did mount a comeback through Cam Reddish of all people, Middleton’s earlier outburst proved too much.
Khris Middleton steps up when most needed.
G6 vs BKN: 38 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST
G7 vs BKN: 23 PTS, 10 REB, 6 AST
G5 vs ATL: 26 PTS, 13 REB, 8 AST
G6 vs ATL: 32 PTS, 4 REB, 7 AST pic.twitter.com/SscMiwoeN0
— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 4, 2021
If anything, playing without Antetokounmpo may benefit the Bucks in the end. The supporting cast has proven they can carry enough of the load throughout a series. Likewise, the coaching staff made the right adjustments and will have plenty of time to scheme ahead of Game 1 on Wednesday (AEDT).
There is no structural damage to Antetokounmpo’s left knee after he fell awkwardly in Game 4. At this stage, there is no firm timetable for his return. The Bucks aren’t giving anything away either with Coach Budenholzer saying “We’ll update it when appropriate. The conversations between he and myself, it’s kind of private and we’ll see where he is each day.”
In a season that will forever be remembered for its injury toll on star players, here’s hoping the NBA Finals can play out injury-free.
NBA Finals Odds
The Suns are $1.41 and -5.5 favourites to win Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals while the Bucks are out to $2.93 in the head-to-head market. Those prices do, however, appear to reflect the belief that Antetokounmpo won’t be available for the series opener. His status is unclear and is unlikely to be determined until shortly before tip-off. There is a good chance the Bucks would have entered as favourites if not for the uncertainty around their superstar.
Still, as we saw against the Hawks in Game 6, Middleton, Jrue Holiday and company can do the job.
NBA Finals Schedule (AEDT)
- Game 1: Wednesday, July 7
- Game 2: Friday, July 9
- Game 3: Monday, July 12
- Game 4: Thursday, July 15
- Game 5: Sunday, July 18
- Game 6: Wednesday, July 21
- Game 7: Friday, July 23