The Milwaukee Bucks showed that they are good enough to win the Eastern Conference finals even without their best player.
The Bucks now have to make a quick turnaround in order to play Game 1 at the Phoenix Suns of the NBA Finals. It is not yet known if this will give Giannis Antetokounmpo enough time to heal from hyperextended left knee which prevented him playing in the last two games against the Atlanta Hawks.
After Milwaukee's 118-107 victory over the Hawks, Mike Budenholzer, Bucks coach, said that it was a "day-to-day" thing.
"We'll keep it updated as needed. Conversations between him and me are private. We'll be able to see where he's at any given moment."
Budenholzer stated that he was impressed by the Bucks' resilience in winning back to back games without Antetokounmpo (the two-time MVP).
Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are the veteran leaders of the team. They scored Milwaukee's first 16 point in the second half. Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 32. Jrue Holiday had 27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, as well as four steals.
Antetokounmpo was still on the Bucks bench. He was so animated, often moving onto the court to communicate with his teammates, Budenholzer stated that he feared that the star might draw technical fouls.
Holiday stated that the players were motivated to win because their star could not be there on the court.
Holiday stated, "Have your back." Giannis is one-of-a kind. While we all know his basketball skills, we also know that he is a unique human being. ... I think one of the most important things we did in the last two games was to play for him, have our backs, and keep the fort while he was hurt."
Milwaukee is now the first team to reach the NBA Finals in its history, since 1974. Milwaukee won its single title in 1971, and lost in 1974 in the finals.
Antetokounmpo was at the heart of the Bucks' quest to become a contender for the championship. The celebration was a little less fun without Antetokounmpo.
Budenholzer stated that there was a bittersweetness in him not being able play the last two games.
Antetokoumpo was listed as doubtful by the Bucks before announcing that he would not be playing. Bobby Portis was the forward for the second consecutive game.
Middleton stated, "I certainly wish he were out there with us. But he's still with us." "On the bench talking to us during games, he's still part of it," Middleton said.
For the fifth consecutive season, the Bucks reached the playoffs. Despite posting the NBA's best regular season record, they were unable to reach the NBA Finals in the previous two seasons.
Budenholzer stated, "Just as any other team in the league," that when this group is unable to move forward, it's hurt and it's been difficult.
To end the long NBA Finals drought, the Bucks won the playoff series against Miami and Brooklyn.
Antetokounmpo is the Bucks' most experienced leader, while Middleton was a disappointment in the postseason.
Middleton stated, "Honestly, it was a long road, but it has been a great one." It's well worth it.