What copycat teams can learn from these topsy-turvy NBA playoffs


ESPN 22 July, 2021 - 06:52am 14 views

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Jesus Villegas, of Sheboygan, encourages Bucks fans outside Fiserv Forum Tuesday. Fans of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrate during the fourth quarter as the team earned a 105-98 win over the Phoenix Suns to win their first NBA championship since 1971. Madison.comWatch now: History made as Bucks win their first NBA title in 50 years

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Parade Celebrating NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks set for Thursday at 11 a.m. The 2020-21 NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks will celebrate their first championship in 50 years with a parade presented by BMO through downtown Milwaukee tomorrow, Thursday, July 22, beginning at 11 a.m. Bucks.comParade Celebrating NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks set for Thursday at 11 a.m.

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WISN 12 News 22 July, 2021 - 09:01am

Chris Paul’s Moment Slips Through His Fingers

The Ringer 21 July, 2021 - 11:05am

What was supposed to be the coronation of one of the game’s best point guards quickly turned into yet another crushing postseason defeat

“For me, it just means [going] back to work,” he said after the Suns’ 105-98 loss to the Bucks in Tuesday’s Game 6, an end to their season and championship pursuits. “Back to work. Nothing more, nothing less. Ain’t no moral victories or whatnot.”

Some of Paul’s seasons have ended in agony, first from injury and then from being forced to watch from the sideline as the fate of his team played out in front of him. Other playoff runs felt like missed opportunities; Paul knows all too well how quickly a series can change, but was reminded once more after his Suns took a 2-0 lead against the Bucks only to lose four games straight. There were flukes, and curses, and run-ins with superteams. Playing high-level basketball for this long means that Paul has felt the sting of defeat in almost every way imaginable, but Tuesday’s loss felt unfortunately new.

When Phoenix won the Western Conference finals, Paul pinballed through the crowd between teammates, coaches, family, friends, and even long-suffering Clippers fans who had supported him during his six years in Los Angeles. When the Suns’ season ended three weeks later, he walked down the tunnel in a booming arena without a word, very much alone.

This was supposed to be Paul’s moment. Making these Finals meant something different for him than it did for teammates like Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges, which meant losing these Finals meant something different, too. The 22-year-old Ayton fought hard in this series, but in its aftermath acknowledged that “individually, this is just the beginning.” He’s right; this was the first playoff appearance for Ayton and many of the Suns, which meant a Finals run doubled as a breakout. This might be the start of something for Paul, seeing as this was his first season in Phoenix, but the whole enterprise is shaped by the arc of his experience. Ayton looks forward to the day he can be his most fully dominant self; Paul wonders where it all went wrong. “Right now,” Paul said, “you’re just trying to figure out what you could’ve did more.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo revved up whenever Paul tried to pick him up in transition. Isolating Khris Middleton to shoot over the top of Paul became a crucial component of Milwaukee’s half-court solvency. Jrue Holiday drove through him to the point that Phoenix had to change its matchups. P.J. Tucker tossed him out of the way to collect offensive rebounds. Even Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis were able to run the break and seal Paul deep under the basket, where all his guile would amount to nothing.

In a way, it’s Paul’s job to feel that loss acutely—to internalize it, to respond to it—and ours to understand that losing is not always failure. Paul had so much to gain in this series but so little to prove. He’s already one of the best to ever play his position, which is to say one of the best to ever play the game. There’s a reason, after all, he’s a “Hall of Fame point guard,” open and shut—one of just three active players Basketball-Reference gives a 100 percent probability for enshrinement in Springfield. There is simply no argument to the contrary. Even in defeat, what Paul accomplished in these playoffs only bolsters his first-rate credentials. If what makes a loss like this so painful is the difficulty of even reaching the Finals, then the very act of getting there is an achievement. That’s not a moral victory; it’s a fact of life in the NBA, borne out by the career of an all-time great player who toiled for 16 years to get close enough just to glimpse the summit.

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