After yet another condensed, chaotic, and injury-ridden season, the NBA has finally narrowed the list of teams competing for the Larry O’Brien trophy down to two franchises: the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks.
BUCKS vs. SUNS— NBA (@NBA) July 6, 2021
▪️ Both teams making their 3rd Finals appearance
▪️ MIL won lone title in 1971
▪️ PHX seeks first championship
The #NBAFinals presented by @YouTubeTV tips off TONIGHT with @Bucks/@Suns Game 1 at 9:00pm/et on ABC! #ThatsGame pic.twitter.com/FRnvA3C6tL
As the tweet above points out, this will be the third Finals appearance for both teams, with the Bucks’ most recent trip coming way back in 1974 and the Suns’ most recent appearance coming in 1993. While the Bucks did win a title in 1971, the Suns have not yet won a title in their franchise’s history, so it’s safe to say that both teams will be especially motivated when Game 1 tips off later tonight.
Here is the official Finals schedule for the next two weeks:
Speaking of Rachel Nichols... well, never mind.
Back to the NBA Finals — the biggest storyline entering Game 1 is the status of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has been sidelined with a left knee injury that he sustained back in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks.
Reporting with @Malika_Andrews: Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo has continued around-the-clock treatment on his left knee with hopes of becoming cleared to play Game 1 of the Finals vs. Phoenix tonight. There’s expected to be a game-time decision on his availability.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2021
According to the latest reports from Woj and Malika Andrews, the Greek Freak has been upgraded from “doubtful” to “questionable” and it’s entirely possible that we see him suit up tonight as the Bucks square off against the Suns down in Phoenix, Arizona.
While there are some people out there that may scoff at this year’s Finals matchup, I personally am beyond amped to watch the Suns and Bucks square off in what I hope is six or seven highly competitive games. The Suns have been one of the best stories of the entire season, and seeing Chris Paul finally break through and secure a Finals appearance has been a real joy (and that’s coming from someone who hasn’t always been the biggest CP3 fan). Add in the rapid growth and development of guys like Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton, on top of Devin Booker taking the proverbial “leap,” and Phoenix has all the makings of a team that is pretty easy to root for.
On the other side of the coin is Milwaukee, and as a Bucks Blog™ first and foremost, it’s easy to see why cheering for another small market team like them is such an easy thing to do. Similar to Chris Paul, it’s great to see Giannis finally break through and secure his first Finals appearance. Additionally, I’m also really excited for veteran players like Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez, both of whom have had long careers in the NBA but have never reached this level of success.
More than anything, I think it’s really cool to see a couple of teams NOT located on the east or west coast put their chips in the middle of the table during the offseason and be rewarded the following year (i.e. the Chris Paul trade and the Jrue Holiday trade). While draft picks, lotteries, and trade exceptions are fun and all, at the end of the day the ultimate goal of any team sport is to win a championship. While the road to get here for each team hasn’t always been that smooth, I’m happy that both franchises will be rewarded with two weeks of the national spotlight and a chance to etch their names into NBA history.
No Finals preview would be complete without some well thought-out, highly researched “expert picks.” Without further ado, here we go:
- Kyle Theige: Suns in 5 (Booker breaks the Kardashian/Jenner curse)
- Jack Borman: Suns in 4 (fight me)
- Mike O’Hagan: Bucks in 6 (shoutout Brandon Jennings)
- John Meyer: Suns in 7 (CP3 finally delivers)
- Tyler Metcalf: Bucks in 7 (Tyler going with the hometown team)
- Brendan Hedtke: Suns in 6 (the fellas get it done)
- Leo Sun: Bucks in 6 (Giannis shouts out Canis Hoopus during Finals MVP speech)
- Jake Kelly: Bucks in 6 (which sets up nicely for next year’s NBA Finals border battle between Minnesota and Milwaukee).