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NBA conference finals MVPs

Khris Middleton in Milwaukee Bucks v Atlanta Hawks Eastern Conference finals

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JULY 03: Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks holds the Eastern Conference Championship trophy after defeating the Atlanta Hawks in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals at State Farm Arena on July 03, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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See first-round series MVPs here.

See second-round series MVPs here.

Suns 4, Clippers 2: Paul George

It feels like someone should play better to win series MVP on the losing team. Paul George was disastrous in the clutch of Game 2.

But…

Four different Suns led Phoenix to its four victories.

Devin Booker dominated Game 1, but he shot just 38% on 2-pointers and 25% on 3-pointers the rest of the series while battling a broken nose/mask. Though Booker deserves credit for contributing in other ways – including an awesome screen on the Valley Oop – his value is limited when shooting that inefficiently.

Cameron Payne stepped up in Game 2. But he got hurt and was pretty quiet the rest of the series.

Deandre Ayton was everywhere in a low-scoring Game 4. He was also the most reliably solid Sun throughout the series and converted the Valley Oop. But he didn’t match the heights of Booker, Payne and Chris Paul.

Paul controlled Game 6. But he missed the first two games because of coronavirus and took a while to get back on track.

Having so many contributors bodes well for Phoenix in the NBA Finals.

But, in this series, George (28.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game) singlehandedly did so much to keep the Clippers competitive without Kawhi Leonard.

Bucks 4, Hawks 2: Khris Middleton

Giannis Antetokounmpo (26.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game) was in the driver’s seat until getting hurt. Milwaukee won the final two games without him, opening the door for two other close candidates who each had duds earlier in the series:


  • Khris Middleton (23.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game)
  • Jrue Holiday (22.0 points, 10.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game)

Middleton was indispensable in Game 3 and Game 6 wins, making tough shots for a sometimes stagnant Bucks offense.

Holiday jumpstarted Milwaukee’s offense with his penetration, and he defended well overall.

But Holiday’s defense wasn’t as strong when Trae Young was healthy. Middleton was better in the highest-leverage moments.