By Jerry Wein
Giannis Antetokounmpo ended a classic NBA Finals with 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 to win an entertaining series 4-2 and cap off a joyous return to a fan-filled postseason after last year’s NBA bubble.
It was the third game this series with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds for Antetokounmpo, a dominant debut finals performance that takes its place among some of the game’s greatest. Antetokounmpo finished with 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 61.8%, the first player in finals history to reach those numbers.
He shot 16 for 25 from the field and made an unbelievable 17-of-19 free throws — a spectacular showing for any shooter, let alone one who was hitting just 55.6% in the postseason and was ridiculed for it at times.
“People told me I can’t make free throws and I made them tonight. And I’m a freaking champion,” Antetokounmpo said.
He hopped around the court waving his arms with 20 seconds remaining to encourage fans to cheer, but there was no need. Their voices had been booming inside and outside for hours by then, having waited 50 years to celebrate a winner after Lew Alcindor — before becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — and Oscar Robertson led the Bucks to their first championship in 1971.
“For the city, I’m sure it means everything,” said Khris Middleton, the other player left from that 15-67 team in 2013-14. “They’ve seen the work that we put in over the years for them to get to this point.”
In a season played largely without fans, the Bucks had 65,000 of them packed into the Deer District outside, a wild party that figured to last deep into the Midwestern night. The party wasn’t bad inside, either: Confetti rained down inside as fans chanted “Bucks in 6! Bucks in 6!” — a hopeful boast by former player that turned out to be a prophetic rallying cry.
“I hope they enjoyed it just like we are now,” Middleton added.