MILWAUKEE — Goodbye, NBA Finals.
Hello, disappointment and heartbreak.
The Phoenix Suns failed to force a decisive Game 7 in the NBA Finals.
The Milwaukee Bucks defeated them, 105-98, in Tuesday night's Game 6 before a sellout crowd of 17,397 at Fiserv Forum to win the 2021 NBA championship.
"It hurts. Badly," Suns coach Monty Williams after the Game 6 loss. "But I'm also grateful that we had this chance to play for a championship."
Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a playoff career-high 50 points in Game 6 in leading the Bucks to their first NBA championship in 50 years. They won their only previous title in 1971.
"It's hard."July 21, 2021
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Tying a finals record for most points in a closeout game set by Bob Pettit in 1958 Antetokounmpo was voted the NBA Finals MVP as he also grabbed 14 boards and blocked five shots.
"I never thought I was going to be 26 years old with my team playing in the NBA Finals," Antetokounmpo said as he sat at the interview table holding the NBA championship trophy and finals MVP trophy.
"Just playing. I was just happy being a part of this. Not even winning. Just being a part of this journey, but I never thought ever I'd be 26 and I'd be sitting in this chair with this right here (pointing at Larry O'Brien Trophy) and this right here (pointing at Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy). We've come a long way."
Antetokounmpo's most impressive stat came at the free throw line.
A 71.7% career free throw shooter, Antetokounmpo shot a stunning 17-of-19 in Game 6.
"The way he made his free throws, the way he did everything, stepped up, the poise, the confidence, the leadership," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. " He has been working on it. We say we want Giannis to get to the free throw line. We believe. We talked about it this past summer. To win a championship, you've got to make free throws and you've got to make shots. He's made shots throughout the playoffs. He's made free throws throughout the playoffs."
The second-seeded Suns hadn't lost more than three games in a row all season before dropping four consecutive games in the finals to the third-seeded Bucks after building a 2-0 lead in this best-of-7 series.
"This isn't something you want to feel," said Devin Booker, who was scheduled to fly to Tokyo for the 2021 Summer Olympics a couple of hours after Game 6. "I haven't felt a hurt like this in my life. So, that's what I say when I know we have a base and a foundation, just championship basketball at all time."
Like the 1976 and 1993 Suns, this season’s squad was eliminated from the finals in six games.
"We grew all season long," Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul said. "Especially starting out the way we did. Nobody probably expected us to be where we are except for us, but it is what it is. Like I said all season long with our team, ain't no moral victories."
Paul scored a team-high 26 points as the Suns came back from an 13-point deficit in the first half, but never led in the fourth quarter after Bobby Portis put Milwaukee up by two 59 seconds into the quarter.
"We had opportunities, a lot of shots in-and-out, but our transition offense tonight, we couldn't convert," Williams said. "We had a number of opportunities to get a layup, get a 3 and we just couldn't do it. It hurt our defense."
The Suns shot 6-of-25 from 3 in defeat as Booker shot 0-for-7 from distance in scoring 19 points while Crowder went 2-of-9 on 3s in scoring 15.
"We just couldn't knock down those shots, couldn't convert in transition," Williams continued. "If I had to point to anything in the fourth quarter, that was it, we just couldn't convert."
Along with poor shooting and another case of the turnovers (15 in Game 6), the Suns had no answers for Antetokounmpo, who scored 13 of his 50 in the fourth.
"He's just a great player, but I just thought because they have been in these moments before, it made up the margins for them, especially in those moments where you need a stop, you need a bucket," Williams said. "There was no panic, there was no lack of poise."
The loss concludes a special season for Phoenix that left the players hurting to the core after Game 6.
"Disappointment," said Suns forward Jae Crowder, who lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 finals in the bubble while with the Miami Heat. "Season's over. Just a lot of emotions right now, obviously. I don't even know how to get my words together, but I'm just disappointed, obviously, I'm hurt. That's all I got to say."
Having last made the playoffs in 2010, the Suns finished the regular season with the league’s second-best record at 51-21 in an NBA-shortened 72-game season.
They eliminated the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round in six games, swept the Denver Nuggets in the conference semifinals and took down the Los Angeles Clippers in the conference finals in six.
Phoenix entered the finals with home-court advantage as the Suns not only posted a better record than Milwaukee, but they won both regular season games by a point each.
The Suns proceeded to take Game 1 and 2 in the finals to extend their overall winning streak over the Bucks to five games dating back to the 2019-20 season.
Then things changed when the series shifted to Milwaukee, which last reached the finals in 1974.
The Bucks won Game 3 by 20 points and erased a six-point deficit with under nine minutes to go to take Game 4 at home. They then won in Phoenix for the first time since the 2017-18 season in taking Saturday’s Game 5 to build a 3-2 series lead after being down 16 points in the first quarter.
Facing an elimination game for the first time in this year’s playoffs, the Suns were unable to extend the series.
"Tip my hat off to Milwaukee, because everybody that checked in, even if they didn't check in, they wanted to die on that court," said Suns center Deandre Ayton, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting and six rebounds. "And that's what I felt. That's what it takes. Everybody got to give it their all when it comes to this, especially when it's the last game."
Now, Phoenix enters the offseason with questions, starting with Paul.
Traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to Phoenix before the 2020-21 season, Paul was the catalyst for the Suns in his first season with the franchise.
"He brought us all the way up here, you know?" Ayton said "We know the type of detail we have to really emphasize to have consistency, to play at the level like this and the type of competitor he is, it was contagious. Knowing your opponent, knowing what the team likes, knowing what teams throw at you, things like that, CP added to everybody's arsenal."
Paul finished fifth in the NBA MVP voting, made the 2021 All-Star game and earned second-team All-NBA, but has a player option of $44.2 million on the table.
The 16-year veteran can opt out of it and test the free agent market for multiyear deal for more overall money.
"We just lost a few minutes ago, you know what I mean?" Paul said "Right now, we’re going to process this and figure this out. I think everything else will take care of itself."
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Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/suns/2021/07/20/milwaukee-bucks-defeat-phoenix-suns-win-nba-championship/8026730002/2475