After one of the strangest postseasons ever, the NBA Finals are here. The matchup features two of the longest suffering franchises in the league, as the Phoenix Suns will take on the Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns have never won a title, while the Bucks’ only championship came way back in 1971. One way or another, a long drought is going to come to an end later this month.
There’s a lot on the line at the personal level as well. Chris Paul will go down as one of the best point guards of all time, but finally capturing the title that has eluded him for so long would cement his legacy. Giannis Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, will have a chance to prove that he is capable of leading a team to a championship — that is if he’s able to play after hyperextending his knee in the Eastern Conference finals.
Ahead of Game 1, which is set for Tuesday night, here’s everything you need to know, including how to watch each game and key storylines.
Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks
All games can be streamed on fuboTV (try for free)
Game 1: Bucks at Suns | Tuesday, July 6 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABCGame 2: Bucks at Suns | Thursday, July 8 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
Game 3: Suns at Bucks | Sunday, July 11 | 8 p.m. ET | TV: ABCGame 4: Suns at Bucks | Wednesday, July 14 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABCGame 5*: Bucks at Suns | Saturday, July 17 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABCGame 6*: Suns at Bucks | Tuesday, July 20 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABCGame 7*: Bucks at Suns | Thursday, July 22 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
How they got here
Via William Hill Sportsbook
A long title drought will come to an end
Back in 1968, the NBA expanded from 12 to 14 teams, and the two newcomers were the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks. Neither team had much success that season, winning 16 and 27 games, respectively. And, in truth, they haven’t had all that much success since — at least not at the highest level.
Coming into this season, the Suns’ only Finals appearances were in 1976 and 1993. They lost in six games on both of those occasions, first to the Boston Celtics and then to the Chicago Bulls. They are one of 11 teams without a championship, and the oldest team on that list.
As for the Bucks, they also only had two Finals appearances prior to this season. They do at least have a title to their name, as they won it all in 1971 with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. But they haven’t been back to the Finals since 1974, when they lost to the Celtics.
There are currently five teams in the league who have gone at least 50 years without a title, and the Suns and Bucks are both in that group. One way or another, a long title drought will come to an end this month.
Can Chris Paul finally get a ring?
If you start naming the best point guards of all time, it won’t take you long to get to Chris Paul. He’s made 11 All-Star Games, 10 All-NBA appearances and nine All-Defensive Teams. He was the Rookie of the Year back in 2006 and has led the league in assists four times and steals six times.
He’s one of the smartest players that’s ever played the game, an elite playmaker and at his peak was a terrific defender. Though at times a reluctant scorer, his mid-range jumper remains one of the most automatic two points in the league. Even at age 36, he’s one of the few guys who can show up and singlehandedly change the direction of a franchise.
But as you’ll notice, there’s still one big item missing from his resume: a championship. In fact, prior to this season, Paul hadn’t even reached the Finals. Some of that was bad luck with injuries, both for himself and his teammates. But there were other times when he just didn’t play well enough.
Now, in his first season with the Suns, he has a real chance to get his first ring and put all of those failures behind him.
Giannis’ health can swing the series
In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, Giannis Antetokounmpo went up to defend a lob and landed awkwardly on his left leg, which hyperextended in violent fashion. As he lay on the ground grimacing in pain, the entire present and future of the Bucks franchise hung in the balance.
Somehow, he avoided any serious injury and all of his ligaments are intact. There’s a chance he returns to action during the Finals. The Bucks are playing it close to the vest, and head coach Mike Budenholzer said it’s a “day-to-day” situation. However, Giannis has moving around freely on the sidelines, and earlier this week, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that he may have been cleared for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals if it went that far.
It’s still not clear when or how much he’ll be able to play, but it certainly seems like things are trending toward a return at some point in this series. While the Bucks still have a chance to compete without him, it goes without saying that their odds go way up if they can get their two-time MVP back.