The NBA Finals have finally started with the Phoenix Suns taking on the Milwaukee Bucks in the best-of-seven series.
First match was on Tuesday. At the start of the regular season expectations were that LeBron James’ LA Lakers would face Kevin Durant’s Brooklyn Nets but after injuries and upsets, it’s the Suns and Bucks facing up.
The Suns were not expected to reach this far when the season started in December, but the signs of progress were there.
They had an impressive end to the 2019-20 season, as a Devin Booker-inspired team won eight straight games in the NBA bubble, just missing out on the play-in tournament.
The off-season proved pivotal. The Suns traded for All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who had lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the play-offs a season earlier.
It was their biggest trade since acquiring Charles Barkley before the 1992-93 season, the last time the Suns reached the NBA Finals.
With franchise star Booker now alongside an elite point guard in Paul, it set the tone for an all-action team ready to make a run at the play-offs.
The Bucks have finally got over the line. They've been so close before, finishing as the Eastern Conference number one seed in the past two seasons.
But, it's the play-offs where they've come unstuck.
The 2018-19 season saw them lose out to eventual champions Toronto Raptors in the Western Conference finals, with the Miami Heat winning the conference semi-final last season.
Led by two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his surrounding cast of All-Star Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and PJ Tucker, the Bucks got the job done.
Their play-off run started with a 4-0 sweep of last year's finalists the Miami Heat, which led to a semi-final meeting with the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.
Before their semi-final it looked a clear path to the final for Brooklyn, with All-Star trio Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden poised to progress.
But, injuries to Irving and Harden gave the Bucks the upper hand and saw them take a 4-3 series victory.
They came up against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals, with talisman Trae Young leading the opposition attack.
Again injuries were pivotal to this series, but this time the Bucks suffered as well.
A knee injury to Antetokounmpo in game four with the series tied at 2-2 could have led to another play-off heartbreak for Milwaukee.
But Mike Budenholzer's roster pulled together for back-to-back wins to clinch their place in the NBA Finals.
27 Jan, 2020
15 Sep, 2021
15 Sep, 2021
15 Sep, 2021