Tagged in: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Brown scores 30, Celtics beat Bucks 109-86 to even series

There was a moment during the Celtics’ series-opening loss to the Bucks when it seemed as if Jaylen Brown would never make a shot.

Early in Game 2, it felt like he might not miss.

Brown scored 25 of his 30 points in the first half, and Boston beat Milwaukee 109-86 on Tuesday night to even the Eastern Conference semifinals at one game apiece.

“It’s the playoffs. That’s it,” Brown said. “We can’t let one game kind of dictate how this series goes. We wanted to be aggressive from the gate.”

Brown shook off a dismal shooting night in Game 1, going 9 for 10 in the first half, including 5 for 5 from the 3-point line. Jayson Tatum added 19 points and eight assists. Grant Williams concluded with 21 points. Al Horford had 14 points and 11 rebounds. “We wanted to come and play like our season was on the line and we did,” Brown said.

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The series doesn’t resume until Game 3 on Saturday in Milwaukee.

Boston finished 20 of 43 from beyond the arc and scored 24 points off 16 Milwaukee turnovers.

“We wanted to match their physicality and punch back tonight,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “A big message was show them who we are.”

They did that.

The Celtics played without Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart after he was ruled out before the game with a bruised right thigh he sustained in Game 1. 

Derrick White took his place in the starting lineup, making his first start in a playoff game since 2019 when he was with San Antonio.

“The ship’s got to keep going. Everybody got to do a little bit more,” Tatum said.

Even without Smart, the Celtics clamped down on Giannis Antetokounmpo after his triple-double in the series opener, limiting him to 28 points — mostly in the third quarter — nine rebounds and seven assists. Jrue Holiday added 19 points and seven assists. Bobby Portis chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds.

Antetokounmpo said the Celtics are doing a lot to make it tough for him inside.

“Strong bodies, being active, being physical —- that’s pretty much it,” he said. “It’s gotten tougher to find your teammates.”

With Smart watching in street clothes from the bench, the Celtics scored the game’s first seven points on their way to taking an 18-3 lead and forcing a quick timeout by the Bucks.

Boston scored from a variety of different spots on the court during the run – attacking both at the rim and inside the paint. It also included 12 points from the 3-point line, where the Celtics struggled for most of Game 1.

“It’s not Wilt Chamberlain down there (in the paint),” Udoka said. “We can get downhill and attack.”

Antetokounmpo missed his first six shots before ultimately getting on the scoreboard via a dunk with less than a minute left in the opening period.

It didn’t stop Boston from banking a 32-21 lead heading into the second quarter, boosted by 17 points from Brown –a career playoff-high for a quarter.

The Celtics continued to share and kept Milwaukee’s defense in chase mode, eventually taking a 65-40 edge into the half.

The Bucks cut into what had been a 26-point Celtics lead in the third quarter. Antetokounmpo keyed the charge with 18 points in the period. A 10-0 Milwaukee run, aided by a more than five-minute Celtics scoring drought, trimmed Boston’s lead to 72-56 late in the third quarter.

Milwaukee kept nibbling away and got it down it to 94-82 on a pair of free throws by Antetokounmpo. But Tatum made a 3-pointer and Boston pulled away again.

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Giannis pours in 50 to lead Bucks past Pacers 128-119

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a season-high 50 points, two off his career best, and pulled down 14 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the skidding Indiana Pacers 128-119 on Tuesday night.

The Bucks (36-23) swept the four-game season series from the Pacers and have won eight consecutive versus their Central Division foe.

Antetokounmpo, who didn’t play in Milwaukee’s loss to Portland on Monday night because of a sore left ankle, showed no ill effects as he racked up 12 first-quarter points that included a pair of thunderous dunks and a 3-pointer.

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Antetokounmpo set a career high with his seventh 40-point game of the season and scored 50 for the first time since the memorable title-clinching game in the NBA Finals last season, which gave the Bucks their first championship in 50 years.

Milwaukee bounced back after consecutive double-digit losses to hand Indiana (19-40) its seventh consecutive defeat.

Both teams had only 10 players available due to injuries.

Buddy Hield scored a season-high 36 points and Tyrese Haliburton had 17 points and eight assists for Indiana.

The Bucks led 34-27 after the first quarter before the Pacers grabbed a short-lived lead midway through the second. A pair of 3-pointers by reserve guard Lindell Wigginton sparked a 12-2 surge that grew the lead to double digits.

Milwaukee led 69-63 at halftime, paced by Antetokounmpo’s 18 points. Milwaukee built a pair of nine-point leads in the third but couldn’t shake the Pacers. When Indiana got close again in the fourth, Antetokounmpo swished a 3-pointer and added a pair of free throws after a clear-path foul and Milwaukee eventually increased its lead to 14 before holding off the Pacers down the stretch.

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Milwaukee Bucks stomp Golden State Warriors, keep ‘building good habits’ vs. elite teams

The Milwaukee Bucks delivered another statement victory Thursday night with a 118-99 thumping of the Golden State Warriors, continuing their trend of being at their best this season when matched up versus other likely title contenders.

The Bucks blitzed the Warriors from the start, jumping out to a 39-point halftime lead, Golden State’s largest halftime deficit since the franchise moved from Philadelphia.

In the past week, the Bucks have won handily against the Warriors and Brooklyn Nets — whom they also beat on opening night in Milwaukee — a pair of teams they could see on the path to attempt to repeat as NBA champions.

“I don’t know why we play well in big games, but at the end of the day we’ve got to just keep building good habits moving forward,” said Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in 30 minutes.

“Big games with big excitement or even games nobody watches, nobody cares about, we have to keep building good habits, so we can be good in May and June.”

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Milwaukee had coach Mike Budenholzer back on the sideline after clearing health and safety protocols but was playing without guard Jrue Holiday, its best perimeter defender, who missed his fourth consecutive game with an ankle. Still, the Bucks were able to contain Warriors star Stephen Curry with a smothering defensive effort.

Curry was 4-of-11 shooting in the game (2 for 6 from 3) for 12 points. He has shot less than 50% from the field in eight consecutive games, the longest streak of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Golden State finished 3-for-14 from the field with three turnovers and seven points when the Bucks sent a double team at Curry.

“Milwaukee is a good team. They obviously have championship DNA now,” Curry said, “and present some challenges in terms of putting pressure on the interior end and spacing. We just got off to a terrible start where everything went wrong.”

The Warriors have dropped four of their past five games overall and Curry is mired in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career, but they were not panicking about their recent skid.

“To be honest, I’m not that concerned,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr stated after the game. “I know we just got our butts kicked. We’re just in a rough patch in our season. Happens to every team, every year pretty much, with very few exceptions. We’re in a little bit of a rut. We played a team that was ready and played great … And so we’re a little out of sorts, and we just got to get back on track.”

Golden State will play the Bulls in the second half of a back-to-back on Friday night in Chicago. Klay Thompson, who scored 11 points on 3 of 11 shooting in 21 minutes, is not expected to play as the Warriors ease him back into action after missing more than two years because of injuries.

The Bucks, meanwhile, have continued to roll against some of the stiffest competition in the league because of dominant performances by Antetokounmpo.

On Thursday, Antetokounmpo finished a perfect 9-for-9 inside the restricted area with four dunks. He scored on four different primary defenders, (including 4-for-4 against Andre Iguodala) and hit all seven of his wide-open shots.

Even when the Warriors forced him into a pass, he routinely made the right read — the Bucks shot 11 of 16 (30 points) off Antetokounmpo’s passes, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

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Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo in protocols, ruled out for Wednesday, but Khris Middleton (knee) questionable

The Milwaukee Bucks listed Giannis Antetokounmpo as out for Wednesday’s game versus the Indiana Pacers after he was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols Tuesday night.

Antetokounmpo went into the protocols a day after scoring 20 points in 34 minutes in a 117-103 loss to the Celtics in Boston. Bucks guard Wesley Matthews has also been in the protocols the past two matches.

Later Tuesday, the Bucks added guard Donte DiVincenzo to the protocols list, giving Milwaukee six players out of play for Wednesday’s game: Antetokounmpo, DiVincenzo, Matthews, DeMarcus Cousins (personal reasons), Brook Lopez (back surgery) and Semi Ojeleye (calf strain).

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To clear the protocols, a player must either be out for a minimum of 10 days or return two negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart.

Tuesday’s news now leaves Antetokounmpo’s status for Milwaukee’s rematch with Boston on Christmas Day in doubt.

In one positive piece of news for the Bucks, All-Star Khris Middleton was only listed as questionable for Wednesday’s match after positive results from imaging done on his hyperextended left knee suffered during Monday’s loss.

The injury occurred when Middleton collided with teammate Rodney Hood as they went after a defensive rebound late in the third quarter, and his leg buckled awkwardly. After he winced and stayed on the ground for a moment, Middleton got up and limped to the other end of the court for Milwaukee’s ensuing offensive possession.

As soon as it was over, however, the Bucks committed a foul, and Middleton walked straight off the court and into the locker room.

It turned out, however, that Milwaukee’s positive thoughts after the game about Middleton’s status — including comments from coach Mike Budenholzer, Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, as well as Middleton being seen leaving the locker room under his own power — proved true, and he should miss little time, if any.

Milwaukee has six games over an 11-day span starting Wednesday, followed by a road game in New Orleans, home games versus Cleveland and Houston, a road game in Dallas and then the Christmas Day showdown with Boston at home.

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Antetokounmpo, Middleton help Bucks defeat Lakers 109-102

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 47 points and Khris Middleton tied Milwaukee’s franchise record for career 3-pointers as the Bucks defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-102 on Wednesday night.

Middleton returned after missing eight games due to COVID-19, played 30 minutes and made consecutive 3-pointers 30 seconds apart early in the fourth quarter to put the Bucks ahead for good. The second of those 3s was his 1,051st with the Bucks to match Ray Allen for first place on the team’s all-time list.

“That’s a very, very special place to be,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think we all just admire what Khris does every night, his ability to shoot, the different ways he gets 3’s and his kind of consistency and longevity here.”

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Allen holds the NBA record with 2,973 3-pointers in a career that also included stints with the Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.

LeBron James missed an eighth consecutive game for the Lakers due to an abdominal strain. The Lakers have gone 3-5 during that stretch.

Los Angeles also is missing Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn, who haven’t yet appeared in a game this campaign.

“It’s a part of the game,” said Anthony Davis, who scored 18 points for the Lakers. “Same thing with the team we just played. They’ve been hit with injuries as well. It kind of goes with the league, the business of the game. You go out there and put your body on the line every night, God forbid, something is going to happen in the course of a season. Someone’s going to get hurt. We’ve got to adjust and continue to fight until we get everybody back.”

Talen Horton-Tucker scored 25 points for the Lakers two nights after getting a career-high 28 in a 121-103 loss to Chicago. Russell Westbrook had 19 points, Malik Monk 11 and Carmelo Anthony 10.

Antetokounmpo posted his highest point total since scoring 50 in a Game 6 Finals victory over the Phoenix Suns that clinched Milwaukee’s first title since 1971.

“I wanted to be the aggressor out there,” Antetokounmpo said. “I wanted to initiate the contact, get in the paint, make the right play and just play with an edge out there.”

Bobby Portis added 17 points for the Bucks. Middleton and Pat Connaughton had 16 each.

This marked just the third game this season in which the Bucks had their three top players – Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Jrue Holiday – all available.

The only other times were in a 127-104 season-opening victory over the Brooklyn Nets and a 121-111 triumph at San Antonio on Oct. 23. Bucks center Brook Lopez hasn’t played since that Nets game due to a back issue and guard Donte DiVincenzo still hasn’t made his season debut. DiVincenzo tore a ligament in his left ankle during the first round of the 2020-21 playoffs.

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Antetokounmpo leads Bucks in 117-89 rout of Pistons

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks ended a three-game losing streak with a 117-89 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

“Thank God we won a game,” Antetokounmpo said with a grin. “I was worried we were going to start tanking for the No. 1 pick.”

With Brook Lopez (back) sidelined, Antetokounmpo spent much of the time playing center on defense. He blocked four shots but doesn’t want to stay at the new spot.

“I learned today that I hate playing (center),” he said. “I have never appreciated Brook as much as I do tonight. Please come back soon, Brook.”

The Bucks also got 16 points from Pat Connaughton and reserve Jordan Nwora. “We really needed this one tonight,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer stated.

“We talked about setting the tone on both ends of the floor, and I thought we did that. Obviously, Giannis was a big part of that, but we saw a lot of other guys stepping up.”

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Jerami Grant led the Pistons (1-6) with 21 points, but Trey Lyles was the only other player to reach double figures with 13.

“We know this is all part of the growing pains that a young team has to deal with,” Grant said. “That doesn’t make it any easier to go through what we’re going through. We need to get focused tomorrow, because we’ve got a back-to-back coming up against pretty good teams.”

Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft, went 2 for 14 in his second NBA game, including 0 of 9 from behind the 3-point line. He is shooting 13.6% (3 of 22) thus far and has missed all 14 3-point attempts.

“This was the young man’s second NBA game after being out for a month with a sprained ankle,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “Right now, we’re just trying to help him knock off the rust and get him some confidence in his shot.”

The Pistons stayed close early, only trailing 36-31 in the second quarter, but they couldn’t score consistently versus Milwaukee’s defense. The Bucks finished the half with a 21-8 run to take a 57-39 lead.

Antetokounmpo, who played 27 minutes total, had 12 points and seven rebounds in the first half, as the Bucks outshot Detroit 47.8% to 34.1%.

“I thought we got off to a great start on the defensive end, and it built from there,” Connaughton said. “When we play that well on both ends of the floor, we are a dangerous team.”

Grant had 14 points in the half, including 3 3-pointers, but his teammates went 2 for 19 from behind the arc.

“We took 47 3-pointers today, which is about where we need to be,” Casey said. “But you can’t win by only making eight of them. We’re getting good looks — we’re taking shots I want us to take — but we just don’t have a lot of confidence right now.”

The Bucks increased their lead to 29 points in the third quarter and cruised to the easy win.

“The starters went in there and did their jobs, which meant I was able to get them out of there earlier than normal,” Budenholzer said. “They didn’t want to run any more than they needed to run.”

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The Milwaukee Bucks To First NBA Championship In 50 Years

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points on Tuesday night to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA Championship in 50 years.

Only six other players have scored 50 points or more in the NBA Finals. Only one other player has done it to clinch the title: Bob Petit had 50 in 1958 to win it all for the (then) St. Louis Hawks.

Led by two-time league MVP Antetokounmpo, the Bucks dominated the early part of the game, rocking the Phoenix Suns back on their heels from the outset. But Suns’ floor general Chris Paul took them on a run that had Phoenix back in the lead by halftime.

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Antetokounmpo took over in the 3rd, going for 20 points in the period, a single-quarter feat of force no other player has achieved in the Finals since Michael Jordan did it 28 years ago.

Antetokounmpo ended the game with 50 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and — possibly most remarkable for him — made 17 of his 19 free throws.

The final score was 104-98. Bucks in 6.

It was a sweet victory for Milwaukee, who got to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of their home crowd, tens of thousands of whom crowded outside Fiserv Forum to witness the win together on big screens.

The Bucks’ last — and only other championship — came in 1971, when they were led by another all-time great big man named Lou Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After three more seasons Abdul-Jabbar went to the Lakers.

Antetokounmpo could have done the same thing once he was with the Bucks for three years. He could have left small market Milwaukee for the lights of L.A. or New York, but he stayed a Buck and signed a new contract in 2016.

In 2020, he redoubled his commitment and signed a $228 million contract, declaring in a Twitter post, “This is my home, this is my city.”

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Giannis Antetokounmpo still awed by block, but ready to shift focus to Game 5 of NBA Finals

Two days after Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ridiculous block of Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton’s dunk attempt late in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks superstar still can’t explain precisely how he pulled it off.

“It’s incredible what your body is [able] to do,” Antetokounmpo said Friday. “When you think about winning, you go to the extreme.

“I cannot explain the play. But, at the end of the day, that’s in the past. When you talk about the past, that’s your ego talking. It’s in the past. It’s over with.

“I got to move on. I got to keep making winning plays. I got to keep competing. I got to keep finding ways to help my team be great. Great moment. I appreciate the moment. Great moment. [But] we got to move on.”

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The basketball world, on the other side, has done little moving on in the 40 or so hours since Antetokounmpo’s rejection with 74 seconds to go in Game 4, preserving Milwaukee’s two-point lead at the time and helping the Bucks even the series at two games apiece as it shifts back here for Game 5 on Saturday night.

There have been comparisons to LeBron James’ epic block of Andre Iguodala’s layup in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, and debates rage over which of them was the more impressive play, along with other great blocks from past playoffs.

For Antetokounmpo, the focus is on something much more tangible: getting a triumph in Game 5, which would allow Milwaukee to have the opportunity to claim its first championship in a half-century with a win back at Fiserv Forum Tuesday night in Game 6.

It’s an approach that has come from past experiences and learning about the perils of feeling too good after one strong performance.

“I think I would say life. Usually, from my experience, when I think about like, ‘Oh, yeah, I did this, I’m so great, I had 30, I had 25-10-10,’ whatever the case might be. … Usually, the next day, you’re going to suck, you know?” Antetokounmpo said with a smile. “Simple as that. The next few days you’re going to be terrible.

“I figured out a mindset to have that when you focus on the past, that’s your ego. ‘I did this. We were able to beat this team 4-0. I did this in the past. I won that in the past.’ When I focus on the future, it’s my pride. ‘Yeah, next game, Game 5, I do this and this and this. I’m going to dominate.’ That’s your pride talking. It doesn’t happen. You’re right here.

“I kind of try to focus on the moment, in the present. That’s humility. That’s being humble. That’s not setting no expectation. That’s going out there, enjoying the game, competing at a high level. I think I’ve had people throughout my life that helped me with that. But that is a skill that I’ve tried to, like, kind of … master it. It’s been working so far, so I’m not going to stop.”

If Antetokounmpo’s play is any guide, he shouldn’t be changing much of anything about his approach.

Through the first four matches of these NBA Finals, Antetokounmpo is averaging 32.3 points, 14.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists and has generally been able to get whatever he’s wanted.

Even in Game 4, after which he admitted he could’ve been more aggressive, he finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and two blocks in 43 minutes.

More importantly for the Bucks, they have been able to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole to begin a playoff series for the second time in these playoffs and to recover from a deficit in the series for a third consecutive time.

The past two postseasons, the Bucks have faltered when challenged — first by the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals, then last year in the conference semifinals by the Miami Heat in the NBA’s bubble.

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Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from knee injury in Game 1 loss

As the Milwaukee Bucks played their first NBA Finals match in nearly half a century Tuesday night versus the Phoenix Suns, they did so with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the starting lineup.

Antetokounmpo, who suffered a hyperextended left knee on an awkward and ugly-looking fall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals a week ago against the Hawks in Atlanta, played 35 minutes in the opener and battled throughout. He concluded with 20 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, but the Suns took a 1-0 lead via a 118-105 victory.

Antetokounmpo was listed as doubtful for Games 5 and 6 of the East finals, and he was ruled out early in the afternoon before each of those games. On Tuesday, however, Antetokounmpo was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the league’s initial injury report, which is released at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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Then about two hours before the game, Antetokounmpo was on the court testing out his knee, going through some shooting and dribbling drills to see if it would feel good enough to go versus the Suns.

During his pregame media availability, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer declined to get into specifics regarding where Antetokounmpo was at in his recovery.

Antetokounmpo, 26, who averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the 15 postseason games leading into the Finals, is coming off a third straight first-team All-NBA season and fifth straight All-Star campaign for the Bucks.

The two-time league MVP signed a five-year supermax contract extension with Milwaukee in December to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future, a move that came in the wake of the Bucks sending several future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for star guard Jrue Holiday.

The Bucks are in the Finals for the first time since 1974 and hoping to win their first NBA championship since 1971, when Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were starring for Milwaukee. The Suns, on the other hand, have never won an NBA title and are in the Finals for the first time since 1993, when Charles Barkley’s team lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.

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Khris Middleton lifts Milwaukee Bucks past Atlanta Hawks, into NBA Finals

The Milwaukee Bucks are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974 — and they secured the final wins of the series without star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee defeated the Atlanta Hawks 118-107 in Game 6 on Saturday behind 32 points from Khris Middleton. Jrue Holiday added 27 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.

After the final buzzer sounded and the Bucks swarmed the center of the court, putting on caps and T-shirts that announced them as Eastern Conference champions, players hugged each other and laughed. Coaches embraced.

“It feels awesome,” Holiday said. “I’m still kind of on this high, but I’m going to the Finals. It’s cool to think as a little kid, this is what you watch the playoffs for. This is all the moments that I felt as a little kid watching TV. I lived them and went through them and now I get to go to the Finals and see what this is about.”

Antetokounmpo, who has been out since injuring his knee in the third quarter of Game 4 when he landed awkwardly after contesting an alley-oop, was in the middle of it all — a triumphant fist raised in the air.

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Thursday marked the end of a slew of Milwaukee playoff runs that were cut short or went awry. In the 2019 postseason, the Bucks swept the Detroit Pistons, defeated the Boston Celtics in five games and built a 2-0 lead versus the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. Then, after losing back-to-back games only once during the entire regular season, the Bucks lost four consecutive games to the Raptors and were eliminated.

Last season in the NBA’s bubble, the Bucks fizzled to a disappointing end in the playoffs.

Milwaukee earned the No. 1 seed and defeated the Orlando Magic in five games. But Antetokounmpo sprained his ankle in Game 3 of the team’s series against the Miami Heat.

He gave it a go in Game 4, but re-sprained his ankle in that game and was unable to play in Game 5, when Milwaukee was eliminated. Back then, Antetokounmpo said that “nobody was going to be happy” with the outcome of Milwaukee’s 2019-20 playoff run. He said he hoped the Bucks could learn from that loss.

It appears they did — and those losses, Middleton said, made their success this season that much better.

“It’s been a long journey,” Middleton said. “But it’s been a great journey. It’s been worth it. After winning 15 games in our first year here and seven years not making the playoffs, to the last two years thinking we had a chance and just didn’t do enough and now we’re here. This is what we’ve worked for.”

The Bucks avenged last season’s loss and rolled the Heat in four matches in the first round. Midway through that series, starting guard Donte DiVincenzo injured his ankle. He had season-ending surgery on a ligament in his left ankle in June and P.J. Tucker slid into a starting role.

Still, Milwaukee kept rolling. After falling down 3-2 in a wild series versus the betting title favorite Brooklyn Nets, the Bucks outlasted them in a seven-game series. And after losing at home for the first time in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Bucks battled back, including winning two games without Antetokounmpo.

All the while, Antetokounmpo stood — almost never sitting down — on the sidelines in black shorts and a Bucks warm-up shirt. A protective sleeve swaddled his hyperextended left knee. But even injured and unable to play, Antetokounmpo was in the middle of the celebration. His longest hug was reserved for his brother and teammate, Thanasis.

“There’s a bittersweetness to him not being able to play these last two games,” Budenholzer said. “Khris and Giannis are the key to this team, to this organization. To have the opportunity to coach them and come here three years ago and try to build something special, those two guys are special, and it starts with them.”

And while there has been no public decision on whether or not Antetokounmpo will be available to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, one thing is certain: The Bucks are sitting atop a hill that Antetokounmpo has envisioned summiting for years.

Now, they have just one more leg to complete. “We ain’t did nothing yet,” Tucker said.

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