July 24, 2021

NBA: Suns and old star Paul before title premiere

With the first tip-off between Phoenix and Milwaukee, an almost endless waiting period will end not only for Paul. The Suns, which have never won the Larry O’Brien Trophy and last made it to the final in 1993, as well as the Bucks, where the only title was exactly 50 years ago, are NBA clubs that are not exactly spoiled by success. For the two teams founded in 1968, it is only their third final.

“That sounds damn good. 16 years of operations, hard work, defeats, really bad defeats ”, enthused the two-time Olympic champion Paul after the semi-final success against his ex-team Los Angeles Clippers. “I was on a mission that we mustn’t lose,” said the Guard. He would like to continue this mission in the “Best of seven” final series.

Bucks worry about Antetokounmpos fitness

It is still unclear whether both teams will be able to play in the NBA finals, which will take place for the first time since 2010 without the participation of superstars LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers) and Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors). In particular, the use of power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was voted the most valuable player in the league in 2018/19 and 2019/20, is open.

Reuters/USA Today Sports/Jeff Hanisch

Giannis Antetokounmpo had to watch his teammates reach the finals due to injury

The 26-year-old Greek had recently missed the crucial Bucks games on the way to the finals after a knee injury. “We’ll take care of that internally and then look day after day,” said coach Mike Budenholzer last. Antetokounmpo was twisted in the fourth game of six semi-finals against the Atlanta Hawks.

Lakers and Clippers defeated by Suns

The Suns led by Paul, on the other hand, are the surprise team of the season, defeating the Lakers, the Denver Nuggets and then also the title contender Los Angeles Clippers. It will depend on Paul, who after difficult years in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Houston and Oklahoma City has finally found the perfect team. The longer break helps him: “Every day off is good and we have the opportunity to rest a little before we start again.”

So far, Paul has reached an average of 16.4 points, 8.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds in the play-offs – even a shoulder injury at the beginning and a CoV-related break could not slow the Suns. Against the Clippers he scored 41 points in the sixth game of the Conference Finals, his play-off career best, despite several torn ligaments in his right hand.

As a conductor, Paul transfers the ideas of trainer Monty Williams to the field. As ingenious partners, he has Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton at his side, who with their skills are ideal buyers for Paul’s feeds. Phoenix initially has two home advantages in the final and would also host a fifth or seventh game. The two duels in the basic round with the Bucks were decided by the Suns with only one point ahead of themselves.

Milwaukee has a title ahead of Phoenix

Both Milwaukee and Phoenix are in the final for the third time. In contrast to their opponents, the Bucks have already triumphed once. It was 1971 and it was in its third season – no other club in one of the four major North American leagues has won a title faster since its inception. This is inextricably linked with two icons: Center Lew Alcindor, who was to become even more famous as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after his conversion to Islam, and playmaker Oscar Robertson. In 1974 the Bucks reached the finals again and were subject to the Boston Celtics.

Oscar Robertson und Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, 1971

AP/Paul Shane

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (No. 33) and Oscar Robertson (No. 1) led Milwaukee to its only NBA title 50 years ago

The Suns celebrated their greatest successes after a 1976 final defeat to the Celtics in the late 1980s and 1990s. This era was shaped by point guard Kevin Johnson and forward Charles Barkley. The former rebound specialist Barkley is also known as an accomplished spell-knocker and because, as one of the best basketball players of all time, he never won the NBA title. In 1993 he just missed it with the Suns, but in the finals the Chicago Bulls around megastar Michael Jordan proved to be too big a hurdle.