(CNN) – They are two of the franchises – and fan groups – in the world of sports in the United States that have suffered the most, but for one of them, the drought will end this year.
The Phoenix Suns never won an NBA title and the Milwaukee Bucks have only won one, back in 1971.
The team that lifts the Larry O’Brien trophy will be able to delight a city that yearns for the biggest prize in basketball.
The best-of-seven playoff series begins with Game 1 on Tuesday, July 6 in Phoenix and Game 2 will take place on Thursday before the teams fly to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4. If necessary, Game 5 will take place on Saturday, July 17, Game 6 on Tuesday, July 20, and Game 7 on Thursday, July 22.
Whereas in previous years, a list of superstar names appeared in the Finals, this year there is a sense of novelty.
No player on either team has won an NBA ring before, and the Suns’ Jae Crowder is the only one who has previously participated in the Finals, where he lost to the Los Angeles Lakers last year while with the Miami Heat.
And while teams will have the opportunity to raise a champion banner for the first time or for the first time in a long time, there are also some more personal stories to reckon with as we come to the end of the NBA season.
The Bucks are concerned about the health of their superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo heading into Game 1.
The two-time NBA MVP hyperextended his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, thus missing the last two games of that series.
Although reports indicate that he could have played Game 7 if necessary and head coach Mike Budenholzer said it is a “day to day” situation, Antetokounmpo’s health could influence the outcome of the series depending on whether or not he can go out on the court at a level commensurate with his talent.
In his absence, Bucks stars Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday displayed their skills to help Milwaukee overcome a tough Hawks team.
On the other side, at 36 years old and in his sixteenth season in the league, Suns star guard Chris Paul finally has a chance to win a ring that has been elusive for him.
Paul has been one of the best point guards since entering the league in 2005, being named an All-Star 11 times, selected to an All-NBA team 10 times, and voted Rookie of the Year in 2006.
However, due to bad luck, injuries and facing better teams, he never made it to the promised land of the Finals.
But having joined his path with some rising superstars like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, Paul has provided poise and experience to a young team, leading past the defending champion Lakers and others en route to the Finals.
And, of course, the best player in the series will be crowned NBA Finals MVP. The award tends to go to a player from the winning team, but on occasion it has been awarded to a player from the losing squad.
This happened only once in NBA history, when Jerry West claimed the inaugural award in 1969 after his LA Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series.
So when the ball is thrown into the air in Game 1 on Tuesday, keep your eyes peeled as there are plenty of stories to follow.
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South Africa: e.tv
South America: ESPN
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UK: Sky Sports
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