Steph Curry, Warriors' core know Giannis' first NBA Finals elation

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Steph, Warriors' core know how Giannis is feeling right now originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The goal that the Warriors took 40 years to achieve took 50 for the Bucks.

And just as the Warriors seemed to be building a powerhouse in 2015, the Bucks have the goods to do the same.

Golden State was led by Steph Curry, a magician on the court.

Milwaukee is led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who lacks Curry’s elegance and comprehensive skills but has at least as much determination, a few more avenues of production and about eight more inches of height.

Giannis’ spellbinding 50-point performance Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NBA Finals gave the Bucks a 105-98 victory over the Suns, earning Milwaukee its first championship since 1971. The record will show the Bucks won in six games, but it must be noted they fell into an 0-2 hole and then swept Phoenix into summer.

The road to the NBA championship now goes through “small-market” Milwaukee.

Or, more frightening, it goes through Giannis.

Antetokounmpo’s commitment to the Bucks -- knowing full well that other teams, including the Warriors, were seeking ways to get him out of Milwaukee -- paid off in the most gratifying way. He stayed, and he won. The postgame roars and jubilation were as real as his tears dropping amid the confetti.

Giannis is 26, one year younger than Curry was when winning his first ring and the youngest Finals MVP since 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard received the award in 2014.

For the Warriors to compete with the Bucks, they’re going to need Draymond Green’s defensive wizardry. They’re going to need more of the length that a 7-foot-1 James Wiseman provides. They’ll need substantially better rebounding, a couple more trustworthy shooters, the kind of discipline they exhibited at their best and the endurance to outlast against Milwaukee’s core, which averages less than 29 years of age.

Giannis is locked up for at least four more years. Khris Middleton, 29, is has two more years and a player option on a third. Jrue Holiday, 31, has three more years and a player option on a fourth.To get to the Bucks, though, the Warriors would have to get out of Western Conference, which would be so much easier if the rising Suns were the only barrier.

The Lakers will be a factor, if only because they have LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They have an asterisk, though, insofar as they will further than they can be taken by the oft-injured AD and increasingly gimpy LeBron James, who turns 37 in December.

The Clippers, ousted by Phoenix in the conference finals, will be a factor as long as Leonard makes a healthy return alongside Paul George. Leonard, too, requires an asterisk.

The Jazz posted the best record in the NBA before being sent home by the Clippers, but they practically personify an asterisk. Reliably a contender, never the ultimate winner.

The Nuggets are good and will be good again, presuming Jamal Murray returns and hits his stride. Greatness requires a championship-caliber defense, and their asterisk comes in the inability to reach that level.

Both the Trail Blazers and the Mavericks are facing particularly thorny summers, so their asterisks come in roster composition. The Grizzlies might someday contend, but their maturity is in the embryonic stage. Every other Western Conference franchise is trying to learn how to succeed in the regular season.

Which brings us back to the Suns, whose asterisk is Paul. He’s 36 and, despite relatively good health this postseason, has a history of injuries. He’s expected to return with a new contract, and he is essential. The rest of the roster is too young and scattered to reach the top without him.

RELATED: Where Warriors sit in way-too-early NBA power rankings

The road to the top of the league, which once went through Curry and the Warriors, now runs through Giannis and the Bucks. It’s steep and narrow and, at a glance, seems built to last a while.

When the Warriors arrive for training camp in September, they’ll be the only team in the West with a core that knows that feeling.

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