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Bucks beat Hawks in Game 6 for first NBA Finals trip since 1974

Bucks beat Hawks in Game 6 for first NBA Finals trip since 1974
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (C) lifts the trophy after winning Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Photo by John Amis/EPA-EFE

July 3 (UPI) -- Playing without star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo for the second consecutive game, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Atlanta Hawks 118-107 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday at State Farm Arena to reach their first NBA Finals since 1974.

Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP, remained out because of a hyperextended left knee. In his absence, Bucks swingman Khris Middleton scored 32 points, including a stretch of 16 straight points in the third quarter, to carry his team to the victory.

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Milwaukee won the series 4-2 and will face the Phoenix Suns in the Finals. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Phoenix.

"It's sweet. These guys have put the work in all year," Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. "They deserve to go to the Finals, and I couldn't be more proud of them. I love coaching them. We've got more work to do."

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All-Star point guard Trae Young returned to the Hawks' starting lineup after sitting out two games because of a bone bruise in his right foot, but he struggled to get going in the decisive matchup. He finished with 14 points (4-of-17 shooting) and nine assists in the loss.

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Young almost helped the Hawks take their first lead of the game when he found Kevin Huerter with a behind-the-back pass for an open 3-pointer in the third quarter. Huerter's shot rimmed out, and Middleton quickly rattled off the next 13 points to push the Bucks' lead to 60-45.

Middleton ended the third frame with 23 points, nearly outscoring the Hawks by himself. Atlanta scored 29 in the quarter as the Bucks entered the final period with a sizeable 91-72 lead.

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The Hawks sliced the Bucks' 22-point lead down to six in the final minutes, but the team was unable to pull any closer.

"My teammates and my coaches, they told me to keep being aggressive," Middleton said. "I love it. Each one of these guys, they work every single day. Everybody stays ready, everybody stays locked in. We all play for each other, and that's all you can ask for."

Jrue Holiday added 27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds for the Bucks. Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton each recorded 13 points, while Bobby Portis -- starting in place of Antetokounmpo once again -- had 12 points and nine boards.

Cam Reddish, who missed a majority of the season due to an Achilles injury, came off the bench and provided a spark for the Hawks. He scored a team-best 21 points to go with three assists and three rebounds.

Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic notched 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, and Clint Capela had 14 points and nine rebounds. John Collins registered a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards.

The Bucks will be making their third NBA Finals appearance in franchise history. The duo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson led the organization to its only championship in 1971 before Milwaukee returned to the Finals three years later. The Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games in 1974.

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