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Bucks head to NBA Finals, Phoenix after beating Hawks

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Bucks head to NBA Finals, Phoenix after beating Hawks

Trae Young # 11 of the Atlanta Hawks ducks his head as Brook Lopez # 11 and Jrue Holiday # 21 of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrate a series win against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals at State Farm Arena on July 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images / AFP

The Milwaukee Bucks return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974 after Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday combined for 59 points in a 118-107 victory over host Atlanta Hawks that closed out a 4-2 win in the finals. of the Eastern Conference on Saturday night.

Despite having to play a second straight game without the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks earned the right to duel western champions Phoenix Suns in a best-of-seven that begins Tuesday in Arizona.

En route to a 51-21 record in the West, which was five games better than Milwaukee’s 46-26 in the East, the Suns swept a pair of Bucks thrillers in the regular season, winning 125-124 at home. February 2. 10 and 128-127 in overtime at Milwaukee on April 19.

By virtue of having the best record in the regular season, the Suns will have home-court advantage in the series. Phoenix was seeded second in the West, Milwaukee third in the East.

The teams have met once before in the playoffs, when the Bucks were a Western Conference club. Sixth seeded, Milwaukee defeated third-seeded Phoenix 2-0 in that first round of 1978, a best-of-three series.

Needing a win to stay alive, the Hawks brought back star guard Trae Young for Game 6 against the Bucks. But it didn’t matter.

He wasn’t in his game, shooting just 4 of 17 total and 0 of 6 on triples en route to 14 points and a game higher tying nine assists.

Milwaukee left little doubt, building on Middleton’s 32 points and Holiday’s 27 for a second straight victory after the Hawks rallied to tie the series at 2-2.

As they had in the first quarter, when rushing to a 15-4 lead, the Bucks used a streak early in the third period to build a double-digit lead. Middleton did all the scoring.

After Clint Capela put the Hawks at 47-45 in the first minute of the second half, Middleton took over, hitting back-to-back triples and a pair of two points that matched a three-point play for a career 13-point career. and a 15 point lead.

It was not over. The All-Star forward then followed a Young layup with another triple, giving him 16 straight points from Milwaukee and the Bucks a 63-47 lead.

With Holiday hitting three triples of his own, the lead was 91-72 by the end of the quarter and the Bucks were packing their summer clothes for a trip to Phoenix.

Down 20 with 9:31 to go, the Hawks made a desperate run behind a pair of 3-pointers from Cam Reddish to get closer to 107-101 with 3:23 to play.

But Holiday stopped the rally with a layup 18 seconds later, Middleton threw a pair of free throws and the Hawks never got closer than seven after that.

Brook Lopez (13), Pat Connaughton (13), Bobby Portis (12) and Jeff Teague (11) also scored in double figures for the Bucks, who outshot the Hawks 46.1 percent to 41, 3 percent.

Reddish had 21 points and Bogdan Bogdanovic 20 to set the pace for the Hawks, who have never reached the NBA Finals since moving to Atlanta.

John Collins had a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta, while Capela added 14 points and Danilo Gallinari 13.

The Bucks never lost in the first half after scoring 15 of the first 19 points of the game. The 11-point lead was the largest of the first 24 minutes, which ended Milwaukee with a 47-43 lead.

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