Khris Middleton leads Milwaukee Bucks to first NBA Finals since 1974 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Fifty years after winning their first and only NBA championship, the Milwaukee Bucks are in position to capture another.
The Bucks advanced to the NBA Finals after defeating the Atlanta Hawks 118-107 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals for a 4-2 series win.
And they did it without Giannis Antetokounmpo.
With the former MVP missing his second straight game with a hyperextended knee, his supporting cast stepped up and never trailed. Khris Middleton had 32 points, including a third-quarter frenzy that helped put the Bucks comfortably in front. Jrue Holiday added 27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.
Six members of the Bucks finished in double figures, helping to overcome the return of Trae Young, who missed Game 5 with a bone bruise in his foot. Milwaukee’s balanced attack helped send the Bucks to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. There, they will meet a Phoenix Suns team seeking its first championship, with Game 1 set for Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET in Phoenix.
With the Bucks up four coming out of the half, Middleton scored 16 points over the first 3:37 of the third quarter. That included three 3-pointers, the last of which gave Milwaukee a 63-47 lead. Middleton went on to score 23 points in the third as the Bucks outscored Atlanta 44-29 in the quarter.
The Bucks’ lead grew to 24 points in the fourth before Atlanta began chipping away, pulling within six on a Clint Capela dunk that made it 107-101 with 3:41 remaining.
Milwaukee reestablished its double-digit lead when Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez connected for an alley-oop that was Kobe-to-Shaq-like with just over one minute remaining to seal the victory.
Lopez, after a 33-point performance in Game 5 to help fill the Giannis void, had 13 points. Pat Connaughton also had 13, Bobby Portis added 12 and Jeff Teague finished with 11 after hitting all three of his 3-point attempts. The Bucks shot 46.1 percent, going 17 of 45 from deep.
Young struggled in his return with 14 points on 4-for-17 shooting, missing all six of his 3-point attempts. Cam Reddish led the Hawks with 21 points off the bench, going 6-for-7 from long range.
The Hawks’ loss brings an end to a thrilling and unexpected playoff run that included upsets over the New York Knicks and top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, all after recovering from a 14-20 start to the season and a mid-year coaching change.
The Bucks are now within four wins of their first championship since 1971 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson helped the Bucks sweep the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals.
And when they step onto the court for the NBA Finals on Tuesday, Antetokounmpo might be with them.