Moments of Mettle Made Unforgettable Milwaukee History


There are defining moments in every team’s playoff journey to an NBA Championship.

The Milwaukee Bucks were no exception. No team has a smooth road with no bumps en route to a ring, but it seemed the Bucks’ road was as winding as any champion in recent memory. They were in trouble a few times.

But in every must-have game, the Bucks answered the call. Here’s a look at the Bucks’ top moments this postseason where they showed their mettle en route to winning the franchise’s first NBA championship in 50 years.

Honorable mention

Game 1 vs. MIA

It wasn’t a normal start to the 2021 playoffs for the Bucks.

They would have to overcome the team that bounced them from the playoffs the season before. In the very first game of the sprint, the Bucks found themselves in a dogfight, but Khris Middleton saved the day, draining a jumper with 0.5 seconds left in overtime to give the Bucks a 109-107 win.

Lose that game and who knows what happens. The Middleton jumper, however, allowed the Bucks to relax mentally, cruising to a sweep of the Heat in the first round. Middleton’s clutch jumper in win one of 16 became a theme throughout the Bucks’ title run.

Trailed 2-0 vs. Nets in series

Not only did the Bucks trail 2-0 in the series, but the Bucks trailed the Nets by three in Game 3 with 1:23 left.

Milwaukee could have kissed their championship aspirations goodbye if they fell behind 3-0 to the Nets (no team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series).

The Bucks, still, were staring at that possibility trailing 83-80 to Brooklyn in Game 3 after the Nets rolled to easy wins in the first two games of Round 2. After cutting the lead to one, the Bucks got a stop. Rather than call timeout, Jrue Holiday spun past Bruce Brown and smoothly sank a left-handed layup giving Milwaukee an 84-83 lead with 11.4 seconds left. The Bucks held off the Nets for an 86-83 win, led by a 35-point, 15-rebound performance from Middleton.

The Deer would crush the Nets in Game 4 to even the series 2-2.

Trail Nets 3-2

The Bucks were pushed to the brink of elimination by the Nets after an enormous Kevin Durant performance in Game 5 (49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists).

Didn’t matter to Middleton. He went nuclear at home in Game 6 with 38 points, helping force a Game 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Bucks looked in control following a Holiday barrage late in regulation, but Durant canned consecutive shots, the latter with 0.9 seconds remaining to force overtime.

While you could find numerous avenues for the Nets to win and the Bucks to lose, the Bucks shut out the Nets the final 4 1/2 minutes of OT. Giannis hit a baby hook and Middleton hit the eventual game-winner with under 40 seconds remaining. Durant’s attempt at forcing double overtime was an airball and the Bucks earned a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

It was really a gut check for the Bucks to not only claim Game 7 on the road, but overcoming Durant playing at an extraordinary high level.

Giannis’ serious injury scare

Forget when it happened for a second. Just seeing the face of the Bucks franchise laying on the floor writhing in pain made every Bucks fan hold their collective breath. Not only that, it looked like it could be a significant knee injury when Giannis’ knee bent back after breaking up an alley-oop to Clint Capela. Now throw in the Bucks were in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, a trip to the NBA Finals on the line and the Atlanta Hawks were about to tie the series up 2-2.

Bucks win final two games of ECF Without Giannis

In Game 5, the Bucks had one of their best team performances of the season, as four starters posted 20 or more points. Bobby Portis was one of those four, starting in place of the injured Giannis. Then in Game 6, Middleton delivered an epic third quarter, scoring 23 points, including the first 16 Bucks points of the second half to dust help dust off the Hawks. Pat Connaughton nailed a key corner three in the fourth quarter and PJ Tucker delivered the dagger three to send the Bucks to the NBA Finals.

Bucks trail Suns 2-0 in NBA Finals

The CP3 storybook talk was in full effect as the Suns defeated the Bucks the first two games in Phoenix. Giannis returned for Game 1 but wasn’t fully trusting himself and seemed tentative on the hyperextended left knee.

In Game 3, however, the tide began to turn. Giannis was in full force all Finals long, making a number of plays which will live on in NBA Finals lore. In Game 4, was The Block on the DeAndre Ayton alley-oop attempt.

In Game 5, Jrue proved everything the Bucks surrendered to get him was worth it. Holiday had 27 points and 13 assists and made the game-clinching and history-writing play, stripping Booker and throwing the “Valley-Oop”, which Giannis thunderously slammed home for the dagger.


In Game 6…we all know what happened. Giannis’ monster 50-point-14-rebound, five-block performance resulted in elation across Wisconsin as the Bucks won four consecutive games to finish the job. Giannis finished averaging 35.2 points and 13.2 rebounds per game on 61.8 percent shooting.

Might have been the easiest Finals MVP choice ever.

The CP3 storybook turned into the Giannis storybook title.

There were many moments where the Bucks could have folded on a Finals journey for the ages. The Bucks showed not just physical toughness, but plenty of mental toughness to bring a championship to a starving Milwaukee community. This playoff run will be remembered not only for bringing Milwaukee a championship, but the rigorous path.

It’s the Wisconsin Way. Nothing comes easy. But, oh, was the grind worth it for the 2020-2021 Milwaukee Bucks.

Follow us on Twitter @BucksLead for the latest Bucks news and insight. 

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About Mitchell Skurzewski

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