It took nearly two full weeks to complete the NBA Conference Finals, but we are finally ready for the culmination of the 2021 NBA season. History was going to be made regardless of who made it to the NBA Finals, but with the Suns and Bucks going through there are plenty of storylines to be written.
Let’s take a look back at the past two weeks of NBA basketball and recap just how this Finals matchup came to be.
NBA Conference Finals West
Unfortunately, we did not get to see these two teams are their full potential the entirety of this series. But if there’s anything that these playoffs have shown us, is that there are people willing to step up when called upon. With Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul out for the first 2 games in Phoenix, tons of people stepped up.
For the Suns in Game 1, Devin Booker was their main guy again, posting his first-ever triple-double in his NBA career. He finished the game with 40 points, 13 boards, and 11 assists. 5 other Suns players finished in double figures as they were able to withstand Paul George’s 34 and Reggie Jackson’s 24 points.
Game 2 was more of the same story, it was a very slow day in the office for Devin Booker. He was quickly neutralized by Patrick Beverley and was held to only 5-16 shooting for the night, and a broken nose. Cameron Payne and Deandre Ayton were the two big names to step up that night for the Suns.
Payne finished with 29 points and 9 assists and Ayton had 24 points and 11 rebounds, marking his 8th double-double in the Playoffs. Not to mention that he also had the game-winning lob, which left everyone speechless.
It was all Los Angeles in Game 3, Paul George led the Clippers in scoring for the 3rd straight game with 27 points, and surprise of the playoffs Reggie Jackson put in 23 of his own to help take down the Suns.
The Clippers absolutely exploded in the third quarter and ran away with the game when they took the lead. Chris Paul made his return to basketball activities for the first time in 11 days and looked awful, along with Devin Booker. Ivica Zubac was the X-factor all night as he was able to shut down Deandre Ayton and grab 16 rebounds, a game-high.
Game 4 was one of the worst offensive playoff games we have seen in a long time. It seemed like neither team could make a shot in the 4th quarter. Devin Booker led all scorers with 25 points without making a single three-point shot. Deandre Ayton was back to his dominant self on the boards posting a playoff career-high 22 rebounds.
Terance Mann of the Clippers had an excellent third quarter but cooled off immediately when the 4th started. The Clippers’ comeback came short in the final minutes of the game and for the third straight series, they found themselves facing elimination.
Nobody on the Suns looked like they wanted to win the series in Game 5. It was imminent from the start, the Clippers were playing with more energy and were more desperate to win this game. Paul George put the team on his back again scoring a whopping 41 points.
Reggie Jackson and Macrus Morris Sr. both put up 23 and 22 points respectively, and this was more than enough to get the Clippers a chance to keep their season alive at home. Devin Booker had his best game since game 1 but his 31 points was not enough to clinch the series.
Game 6 was a close-fought game until Chris Paul struck. In the last 17 minutes of the game Chris Paul activated God Mode. He was absolutely unstoppable and got Patrick Beverley ejected too.
He finished the night with 41 points on 7-8 shooting from the three-point line. That ties his playoff career-high and marks the first time that he will make the NBA Finals in his illustrious 16 year career.
NBA Conference Finals East
Who would have thought that these two teams would be in the Eastern Conference Finals? The Bucks barely escaped the Nets, and were lucky to win that series if Kevin Durant didn’t have a size 18 shoe.
The Atlanta Hawks have been an absolute treat to watch if you love underdogs. This young core showed that they are going to be a force in the next few years.
For the third time this postseason, the Atlanta Hawks stole Game 1 on the road. Trae Young was “ice cold” as he scored 48 points, a new playoff career high. He was exceptional at getting his teammates involved too as he had another 10+ assist game, marking his 8th of the playoffs.
John Collins played like a player who gets a max contract adding 23 of his own points alongside 15 rebounds. It was enough from the Hawks to squeak past Antetokounmpo’s and Holiday’s 34 and 33 respective points.
Game 2 was the game that everyone was expecting from the Bucks in this series, their incredible 2nd quarter was the deal breaker as they ran the Hawks out of the gym with a 43-17 quarter. They didn’t stop there as nearly everyone on the roster got involved. Every starter except for PJ Tucker scored double digits. Giannis led the way with 25 points, 6 assists, and 9 rebounds.
Game 3 was a dog fight up until the 4th quarter. That’s when Khris Middleton finally stepped up and took over the game like we expected him to. He scored 20 of his 38 points in the 4th quarter alone and looked unstoppable. However, Trae Young did bounce back and score 35 of his own, but suffered an injury in the 3rd quarter that would hinder his success for the rest of the game and leave him questionable for the remainder of the series.
With the Hawks being down the best player on their home court, they looked to even up the series in Game 4, and they did just that. Lou Williams in his first career playoff start showed up big for Atlanta. He scored a playoff career-high 21 points and dropped 8 assists as well.
The biggest news from this game was the unfortunate injury that Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered that kept him out for the remainder of the series. He hyperextended his knee on a bang-bang play at the rim and the Bucks looked deflated after that.
Back home in Milwaukee, the Bucks got off to a dominant start in Game 5. They scored nearly 48 points in the paint in just the first half and were absolutely running away with the game. Brook Lopez showed flashes of his prime in Brooklyn and was a beast down in the paint, finally. He scored 33 points and led all scorers. Again, all of Milwaukee’s starters except for PJ Tucker scored more than 20 points in this game.
To close it out in Atlanta, the Bucks once again showed why they are the better team. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday both had exceptional games and proved why they deserve all that money given to them in the off-season.
Bobby Portis has been huge for the Bucks this series and now is even more of a factor replacing Giannis. Trae Young did return for this game, but once again he alongside the rest of the Hawks were shut down offensively and the better team ended up winning this series.