After one of the most unconventional postseasons in NBA history, the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns are set to battle it out in the 2021 NBA Finals.
On paper, each team ran through a who’s who of NBA royalty en route to their respective conference titles. But, when diving deeper into the situation, it’s understandable for some fans to lose some excitement about this year’s Finals.
On one side, the Bucks toughed it out as the Eastern Conference’s third seed. They took out the reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat in the first round, the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the second round, and the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
That all seems impressive, considering the Heat’s status from last season, a Nets lineup that includes the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, and a Cinderella story-esque Hawks squad led by Trae Young.
But, the Bucks were dealt a fortunate bounce in the form of injuries to Harden and Irving in their second-round series, and an injury to Trae Young midway through the Eastern Conference Finals, as well.
Then, on the other side, things looked eerily similar for the Suns.
The second-seeded squad ran through the reigning league champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, swept the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in the second round, and took out the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Finals.
Similarly, injuries turned what looked like a great playoff run on paper into a different story.
The Lakers were without Anthony Davis as a result of a groin injury, and LeBron James dealt with injury issues, as well. The Nuggets lost Jamal Murray to a torn ACL in April amid a solid regular season run. The Clippers lost Kawhi Leonard to a mysterious knee injury, and were still close to clinching a spot in the NBA Finals.
Yes, all of those circumstances might impact outsiders’ perceptions of the Bucks and Suns’ respective runs to their first NBA Finals since 1974 and 1993, respectively.
But, Milwaukee and Phoenix weren’t immune to lineup issues throughout their multi-month pursuit of conference titles, either.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was forced out of multiple games during the Bucks’ Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Hawks, and Khris Middleton and company stepped up to make up for the Greek Freak’s absence.
Chris Paul missed time at the start of the Suns’ Western Conference Finals battle against the Clippers due to COVID-19 protocols, and Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton didn’t let the veteran and future Hall of Famer down. Their efforts helped Paul advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career.
No, the league probably isn’t happy about an NBA Finals that doesn’t include the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, or any of their other premier stars.
But, the mainstays on the Bucks and Suns will do their best to put on a show on the NBA’s biggest stage.
The two lineups each pack a big punch, with a fully healthy Bucks squad posing a real threat to the dominance that the Suns bring to the table.
Defense certainly isn’t the Bucks’ strong suit in comparison to what the Suns provide, but having a healthy Antetokounmpo back in the fray would make things very interesting on both sides of the floor.
Middleton will have to step up in a big way like he did against the Hawks, but more consistent production from the rest of the Bucks lineup will be even more important if Antetokounmpo misses time at the start of the series.
Paul and Booker’s efforts will undoubtedly make or break the series for the Suns, and a solid performance from each of Phoenix’s star guards would likely catapult the Suns to their first NBA championship in franchise history.
But, the real X-factor in this series will likely be Ayton, who showed up in a big way in the Western Conference Finals against the Clippers.
Ayton’s size will be important down low, and he would play a major role in thwarting Antetokounmpo down low if the former MVP ends up playing in the early part of the series.
Regardless of how it all plays out, the league is guaranteed to see a fresh face at the top of the league when all is said and done. In fact, 27-year-old fans are guaranteed to see the Bucks or Suns win a championship for the first time in their lifetime.
Before all of the madness gets underway, here’s the full schedule and TV info for the 2021 NBA Finals to ensure that you don’t miss a second of the action in July:
Schedule and TV info:
Game 1: Tuesday, July 6 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 2: Thursday, July 8 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 3: Sunday, July 11 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 4: Wednesday, July 14 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 5 (if needed): Saturday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 6 (if needed): Tuesday, July 20 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 7 (if needed): Thursday, July 22 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC