Prophecy fulfilled: Bucks finally break through

Published July 5, 2021, 8:00 AMJon Carlos Rodriguez

“Bucks in six” was redefined as Milwaukee had six players in double figures to eliminate the Atlanta Hawks and move onto the finals.

Bucks in six.

What was once a punchline and a meme for the Milwaukee Bucks became a harsh reality for the Atlanta Hawks.

In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Bucks and the Hawks, the M.O. of both teams were in full focus, front and center.

For the Bucks, it was about finding the right pieces to surround the heart of the team, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Then the tricky part, what happens when the heart isn’t doing the work? Will the team live? They answered that in Game 6.

“Bucks in six” was redefined as six Bucks scored in double figures because that’s how you beat a swinging team like the Hawks: in numbers. Khris Middleton poured in 32 points (23 in the third quarter alone). Jrue Holiday dropped a 27-9-9 line.

Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton chipped in 13 apiece. Bobby Portis came back to earth to contribute 12 points. Jeff Teague gave 11 points in 12 minutes. How do you beat a team like this?

You don’t. 

But, of course, the Hawks tried. They played catch-up the whole game long, trying to keep up with a Bucks team ever so determined to punch through without Giannis. The Hawks had Trae Young back after missing two games, but it wasn’t the same Trae Young. It certainly didn’t help that PJ Tucker and Jrue Holiday were on a mission to stop him.

In yet another plot twist, it was Cam Reddish who led the Hawks in scoring with 21 points. While Middleton put on a show in the third, Reddish did his version of stealing the spotlight. 

In true Hawks fashion, they found themselves down 20 points in the fourth because they just couldn’t find an answer for Middleton. Until they did. In five minutes, the Hawks did the thing where they believe they can beat any team in the league, regardless of circumstance, odds be damned.

With more than three minutes left in the game, the Hawks were within six points. The State Farm Arena crowd was chanting “We believe!” It felt like the Philadelphia 76ers series all over again.

Only, the Bucks were no Sixers. They were ready. It looked as if they were anticipating the Hawks’ run because that’s just the type of team they are. They fight.

So the Bucks fought back. Holiday made one big play after another. First, an impossible layup against three defenders. 

Second, a lob to Lopez. 

Third, the correct pass out of a double team to eventually find the open corner 3.

All these, while the Hawks continued to scratch and claw their way against a stronger Bucks team. They went down fighting, but we knew that already.

In the end, Bucks in six, once a prophecy thrown out there for the universe to act on, did happen under crazy circumstances.

Even crazier, is that a team who had no business being in the Eastern Conference finals made us believe it couldn’t happen. The Hawks made us believe they had in them to get to the finals. For an overachieving team like the Atlanta Hawks, that should be good enough for now.