The Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, champions and finalists, respectively, of last NBA season, suffered resounding eliminations this Sunday in their seventh games at the hands of the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks, who advanced to the Conference Finals. The former relinquished their crown by being swept 109-81 in the Eastern semifinals by the Celtics, who will face the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals. And in the West, the Suns were humiliated on their court (90-123) by the Mavericks of an imposing Luka Doncic, who won by 46 points to meet Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors in the Conference Finals.
The Suns, by far the best team in the regular phase (64 wins and 18 losses), had a nightmarish night without any response to the Slovenian’s display, who managed 35 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes, supported by the substitute Spencer Dinwiddie (30 points). For their part, Devin Booker (11), Chris Paul (10) and the rest of the Suns’ figures staged a debacle in front of their Footprint Center fans, who booed their players.
The Dallas will compete for the first time in the Western Finals since they conquered their only ring, in 2011 at the hands of Dirk Nowitzki, who went to the pavilion and merged into a hug with Doncic. “I don’t know what to say. This is an incredible victory, everyone played as hard as they could”, declared the Slovenian. “The Warriors are a championship team. It will be very difficult again,” added Doncic.
At 23 years old, the Slovenian phenomenon completed another exhibition for history, in which he went into halftime with 27 points, the same as the entire Suns squad combined. No other player had equaled or exceeded the opposing team’s total points at half-time in the last 25 playoffs.
Doncic launched his challenge to the runners-up from the opening jump, with eight points in less than three minutes and the first of many smiles he would show throughout the night. The Slovenian nailed six triples, some of them in actions that left their defenders on the ground, like a step back (step back) against Cam Johnson. The Suns tried to stop him with double defenses, but another player emerged from the Mavericks’ bench, Spencer Dinwiddie, who also exploded in the first half with 21 points and 4 triples.
The pressure and defense of the Mavericks caused a short circuit in the Suns’ attack, in which their greatest figures, Booker and Paul, who aspired to have a second chance in the Finals, succumbed. In a nightmare first half, Booker (2 points) and Paul (1) added a devastating 0/11 from the field and were also unable to react after the break, to which Phoenix left with a 30-point deficit (57-27) and hearing boos from the stands. Chris Paul didn’t make a field goal until the Suns were already down 40 points.
For their part, the Celtics overwhelmed the Bucks with a record rain of triples (22). Buoyed by Grant Williams’ seven (27 points), Jayson Tatum’s five (23) and Payton Pritchard’s four (14), the Celtics knocked down a Bucks team who only made four three-point shots. Ime Udoka’s team came back from 2-3 in the series and will face the Heat, who eliminated the Philadelphia 76ers, with the first game set for Tuesday.
Tatum, the leader of the victory in the sixth game of Milwaukee, scored 23 points, but the great protagonist was Grant Williams, with the best performance of his career: seven triples of 18 attempts. Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo could not prevent the debacle of his Bucks despite contributing 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists.
The TD Garden in Boston once again experienced a historic game. In an atmosphere of enthusiasm, tension and electricity, the Bucks tried to mark territory with a powerful start to the rhythm of Giannis, who scored or assisted in the first 13 points of his team and came into the break participating in 33 of the 43 points of his team. .
Udoka’s team, however, gained mentality and confidence. He kept the faith and, little by little, collected the prize, guided by Tatum’s 17 points in two quarters. They went from 5 of 26 to 6 of 6 to come back and take the lead (32-30) with a kill by Al Horford, and kept stepping on the accelerator with Tatum and Smart until they got five rental points at the equator (48-43 ).
If the second quarter ended badly for the Bucks, the third started even worse. Williams, Tatum and Brown hit three straight 3-pointers to increase the margin to 59-47. Despite the fact that Tatum committed the fourth foul in the middle of the third quarter, the Celtics continued to be forceful from the outside and consolidated their takeoff (76-60). The 3-pointer was the scourge for the Bucks, who missed 13 straight times before snapping their losing streak. With the Bucks already off the hook and assuming defeat, Pritchard and Smart sealed two triples for the 97-75 that turned the last minutes into a formality.
An award for Udoka’s team, which arrived in mid-February with less than 50% wins in the regular season and ended the year with a record of 28-7, until starting a magnificent path in these playoffs that will have the Heat as the next obstacle.