June 8, 2023

NBA: what to know about the final between Phoenix and Milwaukee

The NBA season is coming to an end and two teams will compete for the Grail from the night of Tuesday 6 to Wednesday 7 June. If the Phoenix Suns will have the home advantage, they will especially face a team of the Milwaukee Bucks which could be orphan of its star Giannis Antetokounmpo, announced uncertain for the first game. If he could return during the series, his absence would matter, against a determined Phoenix team that has never been so close to winning the first NBA title in its history.

The field, an often decisive advantage

With a better regular season record in Milwaukee, the Phoenix Suns will have home court advantage during the series and in the event of a potential Game 7 deciding they will be the host. An advantage that regains its importance after the 2020 play-offs where each match was played in a health bubble without supporters at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

The Suns are allowed to accommodate 16,000 fans, almost 90% of the maximum capacity of their Phoenix Suns Arena. The Bucks are also authorized to receive 16,000 supporters in its Fiserv Forum. As a reminder, without counting 2020 and its behind closed doors, the team with the home court advantage has won seven of the last 10 NBA Finals. A big advantage therefore for Phoenix who won six times out of eight at home during these play-offs.

The end of a very (very) long absence

The NBA is doing something new with old this year. The Phoenix Suns are back in the final for the first time since 1993 and lost to the Chicago Bulls by Michael Jordan. We have to go back to 1974 to find any trace of Milwaukee’s last appearance in the final. If they had been defeated by the Boston Celtics that year, they had nevertheless put their name on the NBA charts three years before, in 1971, by beating the Baltimore Bullets in the final by the river score of four games to 0. C ‘ was then the first and only victory of the legendary pivot Kareem Abdul-Jabbar under the colors of the Bucks, him whose fate oscillated, for a time, between Phoenix and Milwaukee …

Phoenix and Milwaukee, a coin toss …

Let’s go back in time, to March 1969. At that time, all eyes were on the next draft and one player in particular, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then called Lew Alcindor. He was tipped to be the next big star in American basketball. Except that this large 2m18 pivot can only join one team. The Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, who had the worst records in the West and East respectively, played that first draft pick … toss. Phoenix, who had won the fewest games of the season, had the privilege of choosing his destiny and bet everything on the “face”. Bad luck, the NBA boss throws the coin and the stack wins. The future Hall of Famer takes off from Arizona. We know the rest, Abdul-Jabbar will bring back a title in Milwaukee two years after his arrival in the League. A coronation never reached by Phoenix in its history which, 52 years later, has the opportunity to take revenge on fate by facing these same Bucks in the final.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the dotted star

Best player of the season in 2019 and 2020, best defensive player in 2020, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the superstar of this final. He could miss the start, if not the entire final, with a left knee injury in Game 4 of the Conference Final against the Atlanta Hawks last Wednesday. Announced uncertain for the first meeting, the Greek could miss the start of the finals. “(Giannis) had a good day” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said at the press conference on Monday. “He’s making good progress. But I have no expectations anyway.” An absence of size for Milwaukee who still showed his ability to play and win without his star by winning in particular games 5 and 6 against Atlanta.

Time to take stock for Chris Paul

Chris Paul arrived in the NBA in 2005 and marked the League with his accuracy and precision. A playmaker as we have rarely seen, capable of changing the face of a team by his mere presence. Despite everything, Chris Paul still hasn’t won a title. At 36 and after 16 seasons in the NBA, he will finally discover the NBA Finals. If he had been very close to joining them with Houston in 2018, leading three games to two against the Golden State Warriors, he was injured in Game 5 and missed the sixth and seventh, both won by the gang. to Stephen Curry. This time fate was on his side as neither the Lakers, the Nuggets and the Clippers have played with their full squad. A chance that Chris Paul did not let slip. The proof, the leader scored 41 points in a decisive Game 6 in the conference final against the Los Angeles Clippers to propel his team to the final.

Devin Booker against Khris Middleton, the duel of the backs

If the return of Giannis Antetokounmpo will be one of the keys to this series, the back-to-back duel between Devin Booker (Phoenix) and Khris Middleton (Milwaukee) will be just as important. Trained at Duke, Devin Booker had never played a playoff game before this season. But at 24, the young fullback responded magnificently, averaging 27 points in this playoff campaign including a 47-point spike against defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.

Opposite, Khris Middleton will have the heavy task of carrying the Bucks attack without Giannis. A role he embraced in Games 5 and 6 against Atlanta, with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists in the first and 32 points and seven assists in the second. Sometimes inconstant, Middleton will nevertheless have to continue to display this level because if he misses, it is all the attack of his team that will be undermined.

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