Barely four months removed from being a member of the struggling Rockets, veteran defensive ace PJ Tucker is finally an NBA champion with the 2020-21 Milwaukee Bucks. The 6-foot-5 forward was traded there in March, once Houston’s fate as a rebuilding team was evident (due to James Harden’s forced trade) and veterans had little remaining purpose.
Tucker came close to winning the title in 2018, when the Rockets led eventual champion Golden State by a 3-2 margin in the Western Conference finals. But Houston lost Chris Paul to a pulled hamstring late in Game 5, and the Rockets couldn’t win a fourth game without him.
Alongside two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, however, the 36-year-old took the final step. Tucker defeated a former teammate with the Rockets in each round of the 2021 playoffs, starting with Trevor Ariza and the Miami Heat in the first round; Harden and the Brooklyn Nets in the second; Clint Capela and the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals; and Paul and the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.
Tucker didn’t score for the Bucks in Tuesday’s Game 6 clincher, but he grabbed six rebounds over his 36-plus minutes and played tough, gritty defense — as he has throughout his distinguished career. Antetokounmpo led the way in Milwaukee’s 105-98 victory (box score) with a historic line of 50 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocked shots.
Tucker secured his sixth rebound in the final 10 seconds, and appropriately, he held onto the ball as the clock ran out on the NBA’s 2020-21 season. Shortly thereafter, Tucker and Antetokounmpo embraced. Finally, the University of Texas alum and beloved Houston sports figure has reached the mountaintop of professional basketball.
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