The Milwaukee Bucks are moving on to the NBA Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 18 years. The Bucks completed their conference semi-final series against the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, with a 25-point victory before a sellout crowd at the Fiserv Forum.
The Bucks started to pull away from the Celtics just before halftime, and by late in the third quarter the nearly 18,000 fans were sensing victory. They cheered loudly.
Milwaukeean Tyrone Daniels says the Bucks are overdue for a championship.
"They haven't been this far in, some years. Years! So, they gotta, gotta take it all," Daniels says.
Not only has it been 18 years since Milwaukee made it to the NBA Eastern Conference finals, it's been 48 years since the Bucks captured a league title.
A fan from Madison, who gave his name as Antonio, says the whole state wants an NBA championship. "It's city pride, Wisconsin pride, everything pride, man. Everything pride, " he says.
Fans seem most proud of the Bucks' superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored a team high 20 points in Milwaukee's 116-91 victory. Antetokounmpo returned the admiration during a news conference.
“I don't think I've ever seen people in Milwaukee being so excited about basketball. So, I love that. They know we're playing for ourselves and the team. But having the whole city supporting us is amazing," he says.
The Bucks have been trying to limit Antetokounmpo's minutes, to keep him fresh for upcoming games. Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer says a lot of thought has gone into that strategy.
“It's been a year-long focus, and certainly you want to have him fresh and available for as many minutes as you need come playoff time. A couple times in this series we rode him pretty hard. But there were others where his teammates stepped up," Budenholzer says.
The Bucks next play the winner of the series between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers. Toronto leads that matchup 3 games to 2, with Game 6 Thursday night.
A Bucks fan who gave her name as Kirsten says Milwaukee will have the better players in the next round.
"We have Giannis. We have [Eric] Bledsoe. We have George Hill. I mean, we have all of them. So, we're set, for sure," Kirsten predicts.