2021 NBA Playoffs: a look back as Bucks prevail after wild competition
The NBA Playoffs are over, but they gave us plenty to talk about over the last few months. A Play-In Tournament, break out stars, and a second Bucks title.
The new kings of the NBA were crowned on Tuesday night and Milwaukee is still buzzing after the Bucks’ first championship in 50 years. Giannis Antetokounmpo not only won Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy, but he has won his way into the hearts of millions with his champagne celebrations and his drive-thru Instagram videos where he orders not 49, not 51, but a 50 piece nugget.
It’s been a long and bumpy journey since 1971 when a young Kareem Abdul Jabar carried the Bucks to their first title in franchise history. Milwaukee’s journey since the end of the regular was a long and bumpy one as well. The start of the playoffs seems like ages ago, so lets take a trip back through what was one of the most memorable postseasons we have ever seen.
The Play-In Tournament makes its debut
It all started with the first ever Play-In Tournament. Eight teams, four from both conferences, fighting for the final four playoff positions. The shortened season due to covid-19 complications brought the idea about, and not everyone was thrilled with the debut tournament. Luka Doncic and LeBron James did not hold back when asked about the Play-In. James went as far as saying whoever came up with the idea "should be fired."
When all was said and done, the tournament created excitement as teams pushed to avoid, or qualify for the 6-10 spots in the East and West. The six games featured some big names and monster performances. LeBron James and Steph Curry were the stars of the highlight matchup of the first two nights of the Play-In. James hit a clutch three late in the game to seal a spot in the first round of the playoffs.
LeBron James on the play-in tournament: "Whoever came up with that s--- needs to be fired"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 3, 2021
Jayson Tatum exploded on to the season and dropped the new tournament’s first 50 point performance in Boston’s 118-100 win over Washington. Of the eight teams fighting for a spot in the playoffs the Celtics, Pacers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Wizards and Grizzlies advanced.
Injuries plagued the playoffs
Due to the shortened preseason and regular season we saw an abnormal amount of injuries that plagued many of the top stars in the playoffs. The Lakers got LeBron James back from an ankle injury just in time, and it appeared as though Anthony Davis was entering the postseason back to full strength. Davis strained his groin in Game 4 of the first round, and the Lakers eventually lost to the Suns.
Brooklyn spent the entire season building a super team to make a real run to the Finals. Their Big Three struggled with injuries all season long but each of them recovered in time for the start of the Round 1 series against the Celtics. The trouble came in the second round against the eventual Champion Milwaukee Bucks. Not even a minute into Game 1 James Harden went down with a right hamstring strain, and didn’t return until Game 5. Kyrie Irving twisted his ankle in Game 4 and didn’t return to the series.
James Harden on playing injured against the Bucks: “It’s basically a grade 2 hamstring strain, so the first possession of Game 1 up until Game 5, that was the first time I did any basketball competition against anybody. I was literally going out there on a limb.” pic.twitter.com/Yil8H9BuNq— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) June 20, 2021
The Clippers were with out Kawhi Leonard for the entire Western Conference Finals. It was originally ruled a knee strain, but later tests showed Kawhi suffered a partially torn ACL . Paul George nearly carried the Clippers, and almost topped the Suns, but Phoenix moved on despite Chris Paul missing the two first games of the series after testing positive for Covid.
The Eastern Conference also saw it’s two biggest stars go down with injury. Trae Young twisted his ankle in Game 3, and missed the next two games. Young eventually returned to the series, but was visibly affected by the lingering ankle injury. In Game 4 Giannis Antetokounmpo hyperextended his knee, and missed the rest of the series, and it seemed like that injury would carry over into the NBA Finals, but he made a miraculous comeback, not just returning to action but winning Finals MVP honors.
The young guns came to play in the postseason
This post season was also a coming out party for the new generation of superstars of the NBA. Devin Booker went all the way to the Finals in his first trip to the playoffs. The Suns top scorer averaged over 27 points and had three 40 point games, including one in the NBA Finals.
Devin Booker’s 82 points in his last 2 NBA Finals games are the most by any player who lost consecutive games in a Finals series, surpassing LeBron James & John Havlicek’s 80 points. pic.twitter.com/BK419W2FzV— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 20, 2021
Trae Young led his team to the Eastern Conference at the age of 22. Young put the Atlanta Hawks on his back while averaging almost 29 points a game. If he doesn’t step on the referee’s foot and twist his ankle in Game 3 we could be telling a very different story.
Luke Doncic and Jayson Tatum were only on display for one series, but they had fantastic series despite their teams not making it out of the first round. Tatum scored over 30 points a night in five games agains the Brooklyn Nets, including his second 50 point performance of the post season. Doncic and the Mavs took the Clippers to Game 7, and the Slovenian scored 35 points a game.
It’s safe to say the future of the NBA is in good hands.
Bucks and Giannis win the title and the hearts of basketball fans
But the real story of the NBA Playoffs was the Milwaukee Bucks. The NBA Champions for the first time in 50 years. They made all right moves, dating back to last offseason. They brought in P.J. Tucker and fan favorite Bobby Portis. Tucker did a fantastic job of frustrating Kevin Durant and Portis was vital all playoffs and had 16 points in the Finals clincher.
The Bucks made sure to wrap up Jrue Holiday with a long term deal in the middle of the season. He averaged 17 points and almost 9 rebounds a game.
It was Giannis who had a playoff run for the ages. The Greek averaged 30 points and 13 rebounds in the playoffs, and capped it off with a 50 point night in the secure the title for the Bucks. The two time MVP won the Finals MVP, and was the MVP of the post game celebrations as well. From the champagne showers, to his interviews after the game to his live and direct Chic-FIl-A order the next day Giannis was the MVP in every sense of the word.
The NBA’s attention will now focus on the draft, which will take place on the 29th of July. Then we will have a hiatus of action until October. The Nets are already the early savories in the odds makers eyes, the Lakers are next up and the Bucks are third favorites to win the title.
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