ATLANTA — The Milwaukee Bucks are headed again to the NBA Finals for the primary time since 1974.
They didn’t even want two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to lock up their spot.
Khris Middleton scored 32 factors, together with a run of 16 straight factors in a decisive third quarter that carried the Bucks to a 117-107 victory over the upstart Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday evening.
Milwaukee received the sequence 4-2, advancing to face the Suns within the NBA Finals. Game 1 is Tuesday evening in Phoenix.
Trae Young returned to the Hawks lineup after lacking two video games with a bone bruise in his proper foot, however the younger star by no means obtained something going. After each groups struggled to discover the vary within the first half, the Bucks all of a sudden couldn’t miss within the third quarter.
Atlanta really had an opportunity for its first lead of the sport when Young’s behind-the-back move gave Kevin Huerter an open look from 3-point vary.
The shot rimmed out, and Middleton rapidly ripped off the subsequent 13 factors to all of a sudden push the Milwaukee lead to 60-45.
Young broke up the one-man onslaught with a driving basket, however Middleton responded with a 3-pointer that gave him 16 straight factors.
Middleton completed the quarter with 23 factors, almost outscoring the Hawks all by himself. Atlanta had 29 factors within the interval as Milwaukee headed to the ultimate quarter with a commanding 91-72 lead.
Jrue Holiday added 27 factors for the Bucks.
Cam Reddish, who missed a lot of the season with an Achilles damage, got here off the bench to spark the Hawks. He scored 21 factors — making six of seven 3-pointers — because the Hawks sliced a 22-point deficit down to six within the closing minutes.
But the Bucks completed it off, rekindling reminiscences of the franchise’s early years when Milwaukee rapidly turned the middle of the NBA world with a staff led by two of the sport’s biggest gamers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson.
In Milwaukee’s third season within the league, the duo led the staff to its solely NBA title in 1971. The Bucks returned to finals three years later, solely to lose to the Boston Celtics in seven video games.
Robertson retired after that season and Abdul-Jabbar was dealt a yr later to the Los Angeles Lakers, ending Milwaukee’s run as an elite franchise.
Now, the Bucks are again within the finals with a complete new group of stars. As they proved In the final two video games towards the Hawks, they’re definitely greater than the Greek Freak.
With Antetokounmpo sidelined for the final two video games of the sequence with a hyperextended left knee, the Bucks turned to his supporting solid to end off Atlanta. Brooks Lopez had 33 factors in Game 5, and three different starters scored not less than 22.
Middleton and Holiday carried the load within the deciding sport.
Despite a disappointing end, the Hawks stamped themselves as a future power with a younger group that knocked off the New York Knicks and t he top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers to surprisingly advance to the convention finals.
Mired at 14-20 once they fired coach Lloyd Pierce shortly earlier than the All-Star break, Atlanta went on a run below interim coach Nate McMillan that carried the Hawks to the playoffs for the primary time since 2017.
The Hawks didn’t cease there, advancing to the convention finals for under the second time with Young main the way in which.
After lacking Games 4 and 5 with a bone bruise in his proper foot, Young was cleared to play shortly earlier than the sport. The crowd went nuts when he was the launched as the ultimate member of the beginning 5.
“He’s baaaaack!” the public-address announcer screamed.
But, clearly, he wasn’t all the way in which again.
After an almost week-long layoff, Young appeared tentative and all out of kinds. Sure, he flashed a little bit of his previous type on a few bursts to the basket, however 5 factors within the first half was under no circumstances what the Hawks had come to anticipate from their breakout star.
Young completed with simply 14 factors on 4-of-17 capturing.