THears Milwaukee Bucks showed they were good enough to finish the Eastern Conference final without their best player.
Now the Bucks face a quick change before Game 1 of the NBA Finals at the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night. It’s not known if that leaves Giannis Antetokounmpo enough time to recover from his hyperextended left knee that kept him from playing the final two games of the series against the Atlanta Hawks.
“It’s just a day-to-day thing” Bucks coach Mike budenholzer he said after a 118-107 win over the Hawks that gave Milwaukee a 4-2 series victory.
“We’ll update it when appropriate. The conversations between him and me are somewhat private and we’ll see where he is every day.
Budenholzer said he was impressed with the resilience the Bucks showed by winning back-to-back games without Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP.
Khris Middleton, who is with Antetokounmpo as the team’s veteran leaders, scored Milwaukee’s first 16 points of the second half and led the Bucks with 32. Jrue Holiday added 27 points, nine assists, nine rebounds and four steals.
Antetokounmpo stayed on the Bucks bench and was so excited, sometimes moving onto the court while communicating with his teammates, which Budenholzer said he feared the star might commit a technical foul.
Holiday said the players were inspired to win by their star who couldn’t be with them on the court.
“Watch your back” Holiday said. “I mean, Giannis is a unique guy. Obviously, we all see his talent in basketball, but as a human being he is unique … In my opinion, one of the most important things that we did the last two games was played for him, turning his back on him and staying strong while he was out with an injury. “
Holiday added that securing a place in the final without Antetokounmpo “shows that we are a true team.”
The reward is Milwaukee’s first-place finish in the NBA Finals since 1974. Milwaukee won its only title in 1971 and lost in the final in 1974.
Antetokounmpo was at the center of the Bucks’ efforts to build a championship contender. Not having him on the court took something away from the celebration.