5 moments that have defined the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2021 playoff run

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JULY 17: (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JULY 17: (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JULY 03: (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JULY 03: (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Milwaukee Bucks book first trip to NBA Finals in 47 years and do so without Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks have been faced with their fair share of adversity throughout this playoff run, but none more so than when they were hit with the potential reality that they would be without their leading superstar for good.

Antetokounmpo went down midway through Game 4 of the Bucks’ Conference Finals series with the Atlanta Hawks, though he managed to dodge a serious injury as he merely suffered a hyperextended left knee. With the series tied at 2-2 going into a pivotal Game 5 at Fiserv Forum, the Bucks had to hold it down with Antetokounmpo sidelined. To say they did is an understatement as they took home 123-112 victory to go up 3-2 as the series shifted back to Atlanta for Game 6.

Once again without Antetokounmpo for Game 6, the Bucks were able to finish out the series and book their first trip to the NBA Finals in 47 years with a 118-107 victory over the Hawks.

In both instances, the Bucks showed that they are a team that can withstand losing their centralizing force in Antetokounmpo and are more than just him. Doing all of that while showing the trademark resiliency that we have come to expect throughout this season and specifically in this playoff run made it all the more sweeter and triumphant that the Bucks were able to achieve such a milestone.

And as Middleton spoke to ESPN’s Malika Andrews about after the game, getting to this point has been the reward after plenty of hard work and lean years early in his career:

"“It’s been a long journey,” Middleton said. “But it’s been a great journey. It’s been worth it. After winning 15 games in our first year here and seven years not making the playoffs, to the last two years thinking we had a chance and just didn’t do enough and now we’re here. This is what we’ve worked for.”"

The Bucks soon got Antetokounmpo back in time for the start of the NBA Finals, but their journey to get here and how they were able to overcome his absence only adds to the legend of this playoff run.