Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column — Finals Edition

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After so much craziness, the 2020-2021 NBA season has finally come to a close. The Milwaukee Bucks have won the title for the first time in 50 years! Even with all of the predictions of the Nets, Lakers or 76ers making a run, Milwaukee comes out victorious.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

1 Highlight, 1 Lowlight, 1 Random Stat

Highlight: Giannis. Antetokounmpo. Those two words could satisfy this “Highlight” section for the week, no questions asked. But, I’ll continue anyway.

Antetokounmpo not only has his first ring, but also added two checkmarks next to impressive feats. First, he is one of seven players in NBA history to have 50+ points in an NBA Finals game. The other six include Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Bob Petit, LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

In an elimination game, some players just flat-out choose to shrink in the spotlight. The “Greek Freak” chose the opposite. With a loss, Game 7 would’ve been in Phoenix. Game Sevens on the road are never easy.

The other feat is fulfilling Kobe Bryant’s challenge. Two weeks ago, I mentioned that Devin Booker took advice from the late NBA legend. Bryant gave out challenges to certain players, like Antetokounmpo. One challenge was for him to win MVP. He got two in a row. The second challenge was to win a ring. And with the win on Tuesday, the deed was completed.

Let’s also not forget about the contributions from his teammates. Jrue Holiday was one rebound shy of a triple-double. Khris Middleton had 17 points and four steals. Finally, Bobby Portis had 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench. If they continue to hear criticism, the Bucks can just show off their new jewelry to the doubters.

Lowlight: Let’s make something very, very clear: the Phoenix Suns have NOTHING to be ashamed of. They don’t need to apologize for anything. The Suns should hold their heads high after one of the most surprising turnarounds we’ve seen in a while, possibly even ever!

No matter what this team has tried during offseasons, Phoenix just couldn’t find that winning formula. The acquisition of Chris Paul changed all of that.

With other teams in the West getting healthy next year, like Golden State, the road back to the Finals won’t be as easy for Phoenix. But, they shouldn’t be tossed aside as they have been in the past.

Additionally, “The Valley” should be happy with the rise of DeAndre Ayton. Although everyone in the 2018 draft wanted Luka Dončić, Ayton was the first overall pick for a reason. Players such as Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges had their moments to shine.

And what about Devin Booker? With the way he was scoring, as commentator Mike Breen stated, it was a “Booker Bonanza!”

We may never see another turnaround as drastic as Phoenix did this season. Knowing my luck, though, the Minnesota Timberwolves will probably make the Finals next year, because I just jinxed it. The sun might be dim right now in “the Valley,” but it won’t be for long.

Random Stat: You thought no one could beat the rivalry of Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell, right? How about the more recent one of Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo? In case you’re confused, let me provide background.

Paul was playing for New Orleans, while Rondo was in Boston. Rondo was furious because Paul had been chosen for the 2008 Olympics. However, Rondo had just won a ring with the Celtics. He told Paul that he’d never win a ring.

The tension has escalated to the point that Rondo spit on Paul a few years ago!

Here’s the irony: Paul’s Suns defeated Rondo’s Clippers [Paul’s former team] in this year’s Western Conference Finals. To counter that, the Bucks won the title this year, so Rondo’s “prediction” of Paul never winning a ring continues.

Although I understand Rondo’s frustration for not being selected to the Olympics, he clearly has taken the vengeance way too far. In a recent post-game interview, Rondo even addressed Paul as “Number 3 on the other team” [referencing his jersey number].

These two need to hug it out or something. Regardless, if you ever meet Paul or Rondo in person, may I recommend not bringing up the other in conversation?

Note from the author:

With the season finished, I just wanted to thank all of my loyal readers throughout this unusual NBA season. From the frustrating amount of injuries, to the shocking Finals matchup, it’s been a heck of a year. I hope you enjoyed my commentary, whether I was being serious or poking fun at teams, including my 76ers. Trust me when I say this isn’t the last time you will be reading my content here at the Whit. I’ll be a junior in the fall. The 2021-22 NBA season begins on October 19, so look for “Diehlman at Halftime” to resume a couple weeks before that. Until then, see you soon!

For comments/questions about this story, tweet @TheWhitOnline.

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