NBA

NBA Finals 2021: Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo returns to start Game 1 against Suns

By Sports Desk July 06, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has been cleared to return and will start Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns after overcoming a knee injury.

Antetokounmpo was initially doubtful for the series opener due to a hyperextended knee, which the two-time NBA MVP suffered during the third quarter of Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks.

But after watching back-to-back games from the sidelines, Antetokounmpo has proven his fitness as the Bucks face the second-seeded Suns on the road on Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and a joint career-high 5.9 assists in the regular season, while he has been averaging a career-best 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game in the playoffs.

The third-seeded Bucks – eyeing their first championship since 1971 – are featuring in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.

Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are on pace to be the first trio of team-mates in NBA history to each average 15.0-plus points, 5.0-plus rebounds and 5.0-plus assists per game in the same postseason.

The Bucks are outscoring their opponents by 12.1 points per game in the paint this postseason, on pace to be the best differential by any team in a single playoff campaign (minimum 10 games) since the Los Angeles Lakers were plus-12.6 on their way to the title in 2001.

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    The Ivory Coast international, who joined in January from West Ham, had difficulty in coming about goals during an 18-month Premier League stint.

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    It made him the quickest player to reach double figures in a Champions League career, doing so in just six games. Norwegian star Haaland previously held that record, having got there in seven appearances.

    Haller also became the first player to score in each of his opening six games in the competition.

    Cristiano Ronaldo was already a Champions League veteran when he scored in all six of Real Madrid's 2017-18 group games. That made Ronaldo the first player to have netted in all of his team's matches at that stage of the competition in a single season.

    Haller has now become the second man to achieve that feat, with the 27-year-old's eighth-minute spot-kick coming after he was fouled by Daniel Braganca.

    It gave Ajax a 1-0 lead, but they were soon pegged back to 1-1 as Nuno Santos replied in the 22nd minute for Sporting. Antony restored Ajax's lead before half-time.

    Ajax were already assured of winning Group C coming into the final game of the opening stage, with Sporting assured of finishing as runners-up.

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    "We work so that Barca is not inferior to any team in Europe. We have a lot of work ahead of us," he continued.

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