Milwaukee – Five takeaways from the Boston Celtics 108-95 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 Friday at Fiserv Forum that tied the Eastern Conference semifinals 3-3 and forced Game 7 on Sunday afternoon in Boston (3:30 ET , ABC).
1. Tatum’s superstar-is-born performance
Boston’s Jayson Tatum already had a glittering resume, from three All-Star appearances and an All-NBA roster to a contract that will pay him more than $163 million from this season through 2025-26. But what he did to save the Celtics for at least another 42 hours raised his profile and reputation by a few more levels.
The sleek, smooth-shooting striker had a sort of game from Giannis Antetokounmpo – against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Honestly, the deck seemed stacked too high against Tatum and his team, especially given Boston’s collapse in the closing minutes of Game 5.
So here they were Friday night with all those bad memories, on the go, against the NBA defending champion and two-time Most Valuable Player, facing elimination. And just when the Celtics needed it most, Tatum said, “No.”
“That was in the back of our minds, Game 5,” Tatum said after scoring 46 points with nine rebounds and four assists. He took 32 shots, made 17 and 7-of-15 from the arc as many three-pointers as the entire Bucks team put together (7-of-29). He played almost 43 minutes and scored a plus-21.
Teammate Marcus Smart, burned out by a few crucial plays in Game 5, claimed he hadn’t slept between the two games. Other Celtics kicked themselves and pondered how they’d left Milwaukee off the track and might someday regret it.
“We talked about that,” Tatum said. “We felt like they beat us on winning plays, hustle plays, 50/50 balls. They were stronger than us in that fourth quarter, Game 5.
“Our season was at stake.”
None of them did more than Tatum. Just when it looked like the game was going to be replayed – Boston opened a big lead and saw it become meaningless in the fourth – Tatum flipped the script.
The Celtics’ 18-point lead had shrunk to six when Tatum came in with 9:37 to go. The Fiserv Forum crowd, which had been nervous and quiet for most of the middle two quarters, was still alive. Antetokounmpo then drank a 28-foot three-pointer to make it 85-81 and it was gone.
Tatum hit a fadeaway shot. He then stopped for a 3. Then a pass from Smart for a turnaround jumper, followed a few possessions later by another three-pointer on Pat Connaughton of Milwaukee.
The Celtics went on their attack to get Tatum into favorable matchups. At the end of his 10-point run, they even used him as bait to set up a 3 by his sidekick Jaylen Brown. That narrowed the lead to double digits, 98-87, with about five minutes to go and the Bucks never got any closer.
Tatum had gotten some heat in the wake of the Game 5 collapse for having used a bit of Teflon in his stance, anticipating anyone who would see him or the other Boston players hang their heads, kick tables, or other histrionics. “I mean I could come here and pout and be sad and I’m sure there would be a big story about how we got beat and I don’t believe in us,” the 24-year-old said that night. “Or I could come in. You can’t change what happened.”
Instead of trying to frame the story in Game 6, Tatum wrote the whole damn story.
2. Giannis had to do it all – and almost did
His numbers in the series were already ridiculous, and they were picked in Game 6 when he became only the third player in NBA playoff history to score at least 40 pounds, grab 20 rebounds and provide five or more assists. The other two: Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain.
Giannis Antetokounmpo joins Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to do this in a playoff game:
🔥 40 PTS
🔥 20 REB
🔥 5 AST pic.twitter.com/4BeNV8yzU6
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 14, 2022
But Antetokounmpo seemed a bit lonely and overworked in Game 6. The other seven rotating Bucks playing together for just 51 points out of his 44. He went 14-of-15 from the foul line, they went 2-of-3. He was 2-of-3 on 3-pointers, they were 5-of-26. And so it went.
Boston got big offensive performances from its top three players, with Tatum, Smart (21) and Brown (22) combined for 89 points. The Bucks had only Jrue Holiday, with 17 points on 17 shots, and Pat Connaughton (14), who helped Antetokounmpo score.
The most obvious problem is the continued absence of All-Star wing Khris Middleton with a left knee. Don’t be surprised if the elimination factor winds Middleton back into the lineup on Sunday, minute restriction is twisted.
But the way Holiday saw it, there was no win over Boston’s three-point skill in this one. The Celtics launched 43 and made 17, with an 8-of-15 opening barrage. The Bucks misfired all night: 2-of-7 in the first, 1-of-9 in the second, 1-of-4 in the third.
So how can they solve the inequality in Game 7? Boost even more.
“We’ve got more threes to get up,” Holiday said. “We need to find a way to get up more threes and make more threes.”
3. These playoffs really need more charging conversations
We are, of course, being sarcastic. Oh, there are probably some old-school coaches out there who watch games like this and revel in the place of strong, fully fit athletes who fall backwards over and over, and again and again, looking for offensive fouls.
But its entertainment value is negligible, and the threat of injury to talented Thoroughbred-esque players is almost negligent. No one wants defenders to be treated like pins, but when they go on the hunt for attacks, some of the game’s biggest stars, such as Antetokounmpo and Tatum, are at huge risk.
Add to that the tendency of coaches to use their challenges on such games and we end up with players falling to the ground and games coming to a stop to see if anyone really got to the statue in time to play a highlight or poster game. thwart.
Here’s the kicker: It can even confuse the team trying to make those mistakes. After Antetokounmpo committed his fourth foul with nearly 20 minutes remaining in the game, the Celtics became embroiled in a bid to force his fifth and perhaps even sixth. A bit “heavy,” coach Ime Udoka called it. And it ruined their game.
Grant Williams thought he got the Greek Freak at 10:16 of the fourth, only to challenge the Bucks and win. Finally, Tatum got busy playing winning basketball and put the trick-the-refs stuff away. I wish it could stay there.
4. Grayson Allen Gets Bullied
In the regular season and even in Milwaukee’s first round series against Chicago, guard Grayson Allen was a helpful, annoying kind of player. He started 61 games, made 40% of his three-pointers, annoyed opponents with his defense and reputation, and landed a two-year, $20 million contract extension before even playing a real game for the Bucks.
But Allen is a liability against the Celtics. He shoots 36%, including 5-for-20 on 3-pointers, and while Milwaukee was outnumbered 27 in the first six games, that number was 43 when Allen was on the field. Boston archers seek him out as a defender to exploit (at least until George Hill comes into play).
“The plus-minus is a difficult statistic,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. “But Grayson is trying his best.
“The start of the third quarter strikes me a little bit [as a struggle]† I’m sure Grayson could be better, but as a group it’s really up to all of us to come out of the third quarter better.”
By the way, it only seems fair to note here that Budenholzer didn’t help his club when he mentioned his predictable, infamous UIOLI (use it or lose it) timeout with 3:02 to go. Teams are only allowed to take two timeouts in the last three minutes, and the Bucks coach is almost comically committed to not making any disappear.
Only this time Antetokounmpo had the ball and pushed forward with a few teammates. Milwaukee’s best strike in the series is in transition. Still, Budenholzer stopped the break and finished out of time-out with his star taking a rare and unsuccessful three-pointer into the corner.
The group needs to improve.
5. Is ‘Game 7’ really two words, a word and a number, or what?
That cliche “best two words in sports” may be getting old, but Game 7’s themselves never do. The NBA will have some on Sunday, with the Celtics and Bucks deciding on the Miami Heat’s dance partner for the East Finals before Phoenix and Dallas battle things out to see what faces Golden State have in the West.
There was chatter after Game 6 focused on the end of the regular season, when Boston closed with a win over Memphis, while Milwaukee grounded in Cleveland. That’s how the two 51-31 teams finished second and third respectively, with the Bucks getting their favorite first-round clash with Chicago, while the Celtics faced off against Brooklyn (presumably a tougher foe at the time).
Their difference in standings is the reason Boston got home field advantage in this series, which now means Game 7 at TD Garden. There’s only one problem with that: the road team has won four out of six games so far.
From the words and tone of the contestants late Friday night, it sounded like the Celtics were happy to play the clincher at home as the more experienced Bucks showed their “bring on” swagger. Would we expect something different?
“Good old Game 7,” Antetokounmpo said. “Nice.”
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