The Milwaukee Bucks have won a small handful of playoff series under their new head coach, Joe Prunty. But this is the first time that the team has made it to the NBA Finals. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ star player, has been the key to this team’s success. He has been a constant double-double threat all season long. He leads the league with a 23.7 points per game and an incredible 8.6 rebounds per game. He has been able to dominate the backboards for many of his points, making 10 of his 30 threes in the playoffs. More importantly, he has been able to turn his team into a competitive playoff team. He has taken Milwaukee to the
It is hard to think of a more impressive accomplishment in the NBA Playoffs than what the Milwaukee Bucks accomplished. Their magical final-game comeback against the Boston Celtics has only been rivaled by recent NBA champions like the 2004 Detroit Pistons. If the Bucks win their first NBA title since 1956, they will have more wins in the playoffs than any other team in the league since the ABA–NBA merger in 1976, and one over the Detroit Pistons whose championship year pre-dates the merger. Further, Milwaukee is the only team in the league to ever win a playoff game in overtime, and have a major upset in the series.
It’s easy to forget how young Giannis Antetokounmpo is. He’s only 22, but in just two short years he’s gone from being an unknown 6th man on a struggling team to one of the faces of the entire league. A $100 million contract, an MVP, and a Finals MVP award–it’s not surprising that the NBA’s newest star is the last thing people think of when they think of the Milwaukee Bucks, but that is in fact a historic part of this team’s story in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
P.J. Tucker had to go a long way to return to the NBA. The experienced role player was acquired by the Milwaukee Bucks a week before the March trade deadline. Tucker was mostly used as a reserve following the transfer, but he became a starter in the playoffs. It’s worth highlighting Tucker’s accomplishment after the Bucks won the championship and Giannis Antetokounmpo took up most of the limelight.
Tucker, like the rest of the Milwaukee team, had previously failed to reach the NBA Finals with the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets. Along the road to his first ring, the 36-year-old ran across a number of old acquaintances.
But, after averaging 4.0 points per game in the Finals, what kind of record might P.J. Tucker set?
P.J. Tucker’s journey was long and convoluted.
P.J. Tucker, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, attended the University of Texas for three seasons before entering the NBA draft in 2006. Tucker was chosen by the Raptors in the second round. He spent the most of his rookie season in the G-League and only appeared in 10 NBA games. Tucker was released by Toronto in March 2007.
Tucker then embarked on a round-the-world trip. Over the following five seasons, he performed in Israel, Ukraine, Greece, Italy, and Germany. Tucker’s failure to return to the NBA sooner was not due to a lack of effort. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Orlando Magic all gave him a Summer League look, but he never received a contract offer.
Tucker joined with the Phoenix Suns after a brief stay in Las Vegas in the summer of 2012. Tucker spent four seasons with the Suns, developing into a strong defender and a capable 3-point shooter, before being sold to the Raptors at the deadline in 2017. Tucker signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Houston Rockets as a free agency that summer.
P.J. Tucker kicked off his odd postseason journey in 2021 in Houston.
In 2021, Tucker met a former colleague in every round of the playoffs.
The Houston Rockets’ P.J. Tucker (17) and Chris Paul (3) react during their game against the Chicago Bulls at United Center on Nov. 3, 2018. | Getty Images/Quinn Harris
P.J. Tucker was rescued from a deplorable environment in Houston, where he was no longer a good match. He arrived to Milwaukee and did his job, taking on difficult defensive assignments, moving the ball when he was given it, and attempting to convert open looks when he was given them.
Tucker, on the other hand, struggled with his 3-point shooting in the first three playoff rounds, going 15-of-51 for a less-than-ideal 29.4 percent. Tucker made the most of his limited opportunities in the NBA Finals. In the finals, he only had 20 shots, eight of which were from distance, and he made half of them (10-of-20 overall, 4-of-8 from deep).
The Bucks swept the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Trevor Ariza, Tucker’s former Houston teammate, started all four games for Miami.
The old enemies didn’t stop there, however. Tucker and the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets and former Rockets sensation James Harden in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Tucker reconnected with ex-Houston big man Clint Capela in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Tucker then spent some time in the NBA Finals pursuing Chris Paul, the former Rockets point guard.
In each of the four rounds, four players with whom P.J. Tucker played in Houston were eliminated from the playoffs. The reality may sometimes be stranger than fiction.
What does P.J. Tucker have planned for the future?
The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) celebrates with teammate P.J. Tucker (17) in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum on July 20, 2021, after beating the Phoenix Suns. | Getty Images/Jonathan Daniel
In August, P.J. Tucker will be a free agent. Last autumn, Tucker chose to activate his option for the last year of his contract and said that he intended to retire as a Rocket. According to The Athletic, Tucker felt his days in Houston were gone following the Harden debacle.
But, at best, his last days as a Rocket were uncomfortable. For his last eight days on the roster, he was forced to leave the club at the team’s request. Tucker didn’t want to put his health at risk by joining a non-competitive squad. The Rockets intended to get the most out of a player that was highly sought after by other teams.
The NBA Finals Game 6 was a perfect microcosm of Tucker’s late-career comeback. Tucker had six rebounds and a steal despite being held scoreless and missed his lone shot. His sixth rebound was the series’ last, and he dribbled out the clock with pleasure. The Bucks were plus-13 on the scoreboard in his 36 minutes.
It was the team’s highest score, yet another P.J. Rucker achievement. When free agency starts, some general manager will contact him because he understands his job and performs it effectively.
Basketball Reference and Real GM provided the statistics.
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