The Milwaukee Bucks are into the NBA Finals after securing a 118-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday stepped up, combining for 59 points as the Bucks make it back to the Finals for the first time since 1974.
Here are the key takeaways at the buzzer:
Middleton continues to be Batman
Going on the road in a closeout game is no easy task, but Middleton more than met the moment.
He finished with 32 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals, but it was his dominant third quarter that proved to be the difference.
After taking a four-point lead into half-time, the Bucks blew the game open, outscoring the Hawks 44-29, with Middleton dropping 23 of his 32 in the third to take a 91-72 lead into the final frame.
It marked his third 20+ points quarter in his playoff career - no other Bucks player has done that once in the past 25 postseasons.
His 23 points are also the third most points in a quarter of a postseason game, behind only Allen Iverson (26) and Damian Lillard (25) in the past 25 postseasons.
Khris Middleton scored 23 PTS in the third quarter tonight. Entering tonight, no @Bucks player had 23+ PTS in an #NBAPlayoffs quarter over the last 30 seasons. @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/FKTcHEBgaK- NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) July 4, 2021
Holiday shuts the door
Grand opening, grand closing.
Jrue Holiday pulled the strings all night for the Bucks in Game 6, setting the tone early, before coming up with several big plays down the stretch.
He provided a steadying hand on both sides of the floor in the first half, recording 10 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, before scoring 11 points in the blistering third period.
Jrue's all-around impact in the 1st half 💯- NBA (@NBA) July 4, 2021
2 STL@Bucks lead 47-43 at the break on TNT.. they can advance to the #NBAFinals presented by YouTube TV with a win! pic.twitter.com/CqBvCGpEC1
When the Hawks were jolted into action in the fourth quarter, Holiday was there every time to come up with a big play to stop the bleeding.
Holiday's layup with 5:25 remaining made it 107-94, before the Hawks reeled off a 7-0 run to cut it to just six points off a Clint Capela dunk. As the atmosphere in the Hawks' building began to swing in their favour, Holiday delviered again, with an acrobatic up-and-under layup to halt the run.
HOW, JRUE?? 🤯 pic.twitter.com/vE0qQuaj7Z- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 4, 2021
The Hawks weren't done yet as John Collins' layup with 2:11 remaining made it 111-103, but again Hoiday was there, finding Brook Lopez for an alley-oop to give them a 10-point buffer with 1:29 to go.
Jrue finds Brook above the rim! 💥@Bucks up 10 with 1:29 left in Game 6 on TNT pic.twitter.com/7KKC3wW8dr- NBA (@NBA) July 4, 2021
With Middleton going 0-of-4 in the fourth quarter, the Bucks needed someone to step up and Holiday delivered in the games biggest moments.
He finished with 27 points, nine assists, nine rebounds and four steals.
The Cam Reddish game
Trae Young returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with a bone bruise in his right foot, but struggled to provide a scoring punch as he batlted through the pain, shooting 4-of-17 from the field, finishing with 14 points and nine assists.
"Not being able to be out there for my team for two games, and then tonight just wanting to battle and try to fight through it as much as I could and try to be out there for my team, it's definitely frustrating not being healthy and not being able to give my full 100 percent," Young said.
In need of an offensive spark, Cam Reddish went off for the Hawks, dropping a team-high 21 points off the bench on a scorching 6-of-7 from the 3-point line.
HIGH LEVEL 🏀 in Game 6! #ThatsGame@ATLHawks 101@Bucks 109- NBA (@NBA) July 4, 2021
3:16 left on TNT. #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/ZeOLAuEYqM
Reddish's two-way effort drew praise from Hawks coach Nate McMillan postgame, comparing him to LA Clippers seven-time All-Star Paul George.
"I see a lot of Paul George in Cam," McMillan said post-game.
"His length, his, his ability to defend, working on his offensive game. Tonight he shot the ball well, shooting the three and as well as putting the ball on the floor, getting to the basket, the make up is really similar.
"He showed that he has a lot of potential and that's a talented player."
While the Hawks' fairytale playoff run came to a close, the young talent and potential within this group is just the beginning of what can be an Eastern Conference power for years to come, according to Young.
"I feel like we'll be back."
The Bucks will square off with the Suns in Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Phoenix, set for Tuesday, July 6 with tip off at 9:00 p.m. ET.
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