With the Milwaukee Bucks’ 118-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday, the NBA Finals are now in place.
Scheduled to begin Tuesday, the Bucks will look to win their first title since 1971 against a Phoenix Suns organization that has never won a championship in its history.
Before the final we will have more, but for now, here are three questions we have heading into the 2021 championship series.
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What’s the status of Giannis?
The biggest question looming at the start of these finals is the injury status of Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo suffered a knee injury during Game 4 of the Milwaukee series with the Hawks, and despite reportedly suffering no ligament damage and his injury is listed as a hyperextended left knee, he was forced to to miss Games 5 and 6 of the conference final.
And now, given how quickly the finals will begin, the question on everyone’s mind will be whether he can give it a try in Game 1, or later in the series.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that, if the Hawks had forced a Game 7, then there would be “belief” that Antetokounmpo would play, but no one knows for sure now.
Still, this is optimistic if you’re a Bucks fan, as that’s an indication that Antetokounmpo is well enough to at least give it a try in an emergency.
The rest days that he has had without playing and in the run-up to the final also have to help.
We probably don’t really know if Antetokounmpo can play in Game 1 until Tuesday, but for now we can keep our fingers crossed that probably the biggest star in the Finals doesn’t have to be offside during them.
Who wants to guard on vacation?
In Antetokounmpo’s absence, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday stepped up to carry Milwaukee’s charge on offense, but perhaps more important than that is the apparent renewed confidence Holiday has found on the defensive end.
Billed as one of the best two-way players in the league, Holiday hasn’t looked like that for most of this postseason, but he’s been more like him in these past two games as he took over the assignment from Trae Young. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter.
There is a little asterisk there. Young, of course, limped in Game 6 when he returned from the emergency playing with a bruise on a bone in his foot; Bogdanovic and Huerter are great shooters, but they’re not really driving threats. But the result is not to be underestimated, Holiday still did a good job.
However, against Phoenix, Holiday will have a much tougher task ahead, as he is likely the main defender in one of the Suns’ two studs, Chris Paul or Devin Booker.
The question, however, is who will it be?
Most likely the assignment is Booker’s. He’s the most dangerous offensive player, overall, as a budding young superstar who can shoot from just about anywhere on the court and get them done. But leaving Paul unhindered would also be at the Bucks’ risk.
Paul has had some of the most prolific scoring bursts of his career this postseason and is always a constant threat to tear you apart with his passing.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer may need to choose his poison who he puts Holiday with. Of course, she has PJ Tucker at her disposal to pitch on Booker and Paul as well, but the speed advantage they both have on Tucker may be too great for even Tucker to beat her there.
Is this Chris Paul’s first and only shot at a ring?
And while we’re on the subject of Paul, this is the 36-year-old’s first appearance in the Finals and it may be his only chance to win that elusive ring that always seemed out of reach.
With all due respect to Antetokounmpo, he’s 26 and more likely to kick the can than Paul, so these finals are arguably more important to Paul’s overall legacy than that of the Greek star.
For years, Paul has been criticized for failing to win the big tournament and, for some reason or another, has been forced to miss critical playoff games for the teams he’s been on.
However, not this year.
Aside from the little time he spent on the NBA’s COVID protocols, Paul has been very present throughout the Suns’ career and has arguably been playing the best basketball of his career during it.
It certainly seems like everything is lining up perfectly for me to finally win a title, whether that happens or not remains to be seen.