The Milwaukee Bucks superior to their first N.B.A. finals since 1974 after defeating the Atlanta Hawks, 118-107, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night time to take the sequence, 4 video games to two. They will face the Phoenix Suns in the N.B.A. finals beginning Tuesday.
They had been with out the companies of Giannis Antetokounmpo, their finest participant, who had injured his left knee in Game Four, showing to deal a big blow to the Bucks’ probabilities of profitable the sequence.
Instead, the Bucks soldiered on with out him, leaning on a supporting forged led by ahead Khris Middleton, who scored 23 of his 32 factors in the third quarter, and guard Jrue Holiday, who added 27 factors of his personal. The Hawks’ finest participant, Trae Young, who had missed Games Four and 5 due to a bone bruise in his proper foot, struggled in the loss after being a game-time choice on Saturday. Young shot solely Four for 17 from the subject and missed all six of his Three-pointers. He completed with 14 factors.
The crowd at State Farm Arena was subdued all through most of the sport, as the Bucks burst out of the gate with a 15-Four run and led the complete sport. But Atlanta followers got here again to life in the fourth quarter, as the Hawks made a livid run to lower a 22-point second-half lead to 6 with Three:40 left.
The sequence was a curler coaster and largely uncompetitive. The Hawks struck first with a stunning Game 1 win on the highway, 116-113. Young scored 48 factors. The Bucks, as they did towards Kevin Durant and the Nets in the second spherical, struggled to defend Atlanta on pick-and-rolls. This allowed Young to get into the paint simply and create offense for the Hawks.
In Game 2, Milwaukee thumped Atlanta, 125-91, led by Antetokounmpo’s 25 factors in 29 minutes. In the following contest, the Bucks appeared to take management of the sequence with a 113-102 win, this time with Middleton’s 38 factors and 11 rebounds main the manner.
It was in the second half of Game Four that Antetokounmpo damage his knee, and the Hawks, making the most of the bewildered Bucks, ripped off a blowout of their very own to even the best-of-seven sequence at two video games apiece. The win got here with out Young, elevating Atlanta’s hopes that its upstart marketing campaign might carry the Hawks to the franchise’s first finals since 1961.
Antetokounmpo, a two-time Most Valuable Player Award winner and one in all the greatest stars in the N.B.A., was in the midst of the finest playoff run of his profession after a sequence of disappointing ones. He is averaging 28.2 factors, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per sport in the playoffs. While he has struggled taking pictures from the subject and at the free-throw line, he has largely stored his sport the place it’s most profitable: at the rim for dunks, as he did throughout the common season. In the postseason, 63.Three % of Antetokounmpo’s photographs have been inside 10 toes of the hoop. During the common season, that quantity was 62.Four %.
The Bucks regrouped in Game 5 with out him, dominating the Hawks from begin to end to go up Three-2 in the sequence. Brook Lopez scored a playoff career-high 33 factors in the 123-112 win.
The stakes have been excessive for Milwaukee this postseason. Despite Antetokounmpo’s regular-season brilliance over the previous 5 years, the Bucks had not made the finals. Antetokounmpo’s poor taking pictures was a difficulty, as defenders packed the paint to goad him into taking pictures from the outdoors or dribbling into site visitors.
Mike Budenholzer, who has coached Milwaukee for the final three seasons, has been criticized for the distinction between the Bucks’ regular-season performances and playoff failures, elevating hypothesis that he’s teaching for his job this yr.
But the critics had been silenced, not less than briefly, on Saturday night time. The Bucks will head to Phoenix for Game 1 of the finals, 4 wins away from a title. Once once more, Milwaukee could have to deal with an elite scorer in Devin Booker, in addition to an skilled in the pick-and-roll, level guard Chris Paul. And the Bucks could also be with out Antetokounmpo, whose availability for the sequence is unsure.