Throughout the 2021 NBA postseason, Pat Connaughton came off the Milwaukee Bucks' bench and did anything and everything he could to help his team win.
Whether that was knocking down triples at an efficient rate, crashing the offensive and defensive glass with a purpose, or defending at a high level, Connaughton left it all out on the floor. He played a bench-high 30 minutes per game in the Finals alone, and every one of those seconds on the floor were impactful.
Now, Connaughton's hard work and dedication to both his craft and his team have paid off to the highest degree, as he can officially call himself an NBA Champion.
"It's incredible," Connaughton said in a press conference following the Bucks' 105-98 series-clinching Game 6 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night. The victory came 10 years after Connaughton guided St. John's Prep to a Division 1 high school state basketball championship.
"Just the support you felt around the city throughout this entire playoff run was incredible, so to be able to win and be able to call ourselves world champions in front of our home fans ... it's incredible. The city of Milwaukee deserves it and I'm just proud that I could be a part of a team that gave this to them."
In Tuesday's decisive triumph, Connaughton wasn't able to knock down any of his four 3-point attempts, nor could he find the bottom of the net on a pair of free throws in the waning seconds. But the 6-foot-5 guard snared eight rebounds, including a pair on the offensive glass, and even took a charge on Suns star Devin Booker late in action. That performance alone sums up exactly what Connaughton meant to the 2020-21 Bucks team; even when his shots weren't falling, he found a way to impact the game in other areas.
Despite coming up empty in the scoring department on Tuesday night, Connaughton still made 44.1 percent (15-for-34) of his 3-balls in the six-game series. His 15 makes from distance were the second most by an individual from either team in the Finals, trailing only teammate Khris Middleton and Suns swingman Jae Crowder's 16. Connaughton's 35 total rebounds in the six games were fourth best on the team to boot.
Connaughton drew some criticism from Bucks fans after the team inked him to a 3-year, $16 million contract extension heading into the season. But after the performances he gave night in and night out throughout the title run, it's safe to say he's now earned the respect and approval from the dedicated fan base.
He understood his role, executed it to a T, and alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo — who by the way erupted for an all-time performance with 50 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks in the close out game — Middleton, Jrue Holiday and the rest of the Bucks' talented core, brought home a championship that will live on forever.
"All year long we've been coming off the bench and we found a way to impact our team every single night," Connaughton added in an interview alongside teammate Bobby Portis with NBA TV following the win.
"It didn't matter what it was; sometimes we make shots, sometimes we miss shots, but at the end of the day we need to impact winning in some way and we did it with the hardnosed stuff. We made sure we came into this season understanding that we have a great group of guys, we have great leaders, we have three guys that are phenomenal at what they do in Khris, Giannis and Jrue, but we're going to make sure that on a nightly basis we come out here and we put our team in a position to win."