Jayson Tatum outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as Celtics power Sport 7

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MILWAUKEE — Jayson Tatum promised that his season was “not over,” after which he made certain of it.

The Boston Celtics entered Friday going through elimination and carrying the heavy psychological baggage that comes with blowing a number of fourth-quarter results in the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on this nip-and-tuck second-round sequence. After being pulverized by Giannis Antetokounmpo for every week straight, the Celtics watched Sport 5 slip away within the closing seconds because of Jrue Vacation’s completely executed block of Marcus Good. Boston then made the journey again to Fiserv Discussion board, the place they had been greeted by former Milwaukee guard Brandon Jennings, who delivered his signature rallying cry — “Bucks in 6!” — in a taped Jumbotron message that drew loud applause.

However the Celtics, who’ve spent a lot of the sequence misfiring from past the arc, got here out scorching, making 5 three-pointers within the first 4 minutes. And Tatum, who has vacillated between high-impact and invisible play in opposition to Milwaukee, could not miss in the course of the decisive stretch, ending with a game-high 46 factors to seal Boston’s 108-95 Sport 6 victory. The Celtics will host Sport 7 on the TD Backyard on Sunday, with the winner advancing to face the top-seeded Miami Warmth within the Jap Convention finals.

“Our season was on the road,” Tatum stated. “We knew that. We needed to dig deep. Everyone had a nasty style of their mouth. We had been upbeat. We weren’t defeated, realizing that we nonetheless had a chance to save lots of our season. I used to be excited to play at present. Sport 6. This is sort of a huge second for all of us. How will we reply?”

Antetokounmpo opened with a flourish, trying keen to complete off Boston whereas scoring 17 factors within the first quarter. By evening’s finish, he had posted a team-high 44 factors, 20 rebounds and 6 assists; it was his third 40-point efficiency previously 4 video games.

Boston weathered Antetokounmpo’s early storm with scorching outdoors capturing and took a 10-point lead into halftime because it capitalized on Milwaukee’s offense getting little contribution from its wings. Whereas the Celtics have struggled to pierce the Bucks’ inside protection all through this sequence, they compensated with good ball motion and a balanced assault. Good scored 21 factors and hit 5 three-pointers, and Jaylen Brown added 22 factors.

“We had been simply attempting to take what they gave us, and that was the three,” Good stated. “We had been hitting them early on, and it helped us later — the lane began to open up.”

Although the scoring got here in bunches from a number of sources, the evening belonged to Tatum, who outdueled Antetokounmpo in a memorable fourth-quarter trade. After the Celtics’ demoralizing loss Wednesday, Tatum vowed that the Celtics weren’t crushed mentally. The second of reality got here early within the last interval. The Bucks progressively dug out of an 18-point gap, and Antetokounmpo appeared poised to guide one other unbelievable comeback.

Tatum responded with 4 jumpers in fast succession that swished by the online. The three-time all-star ahead discovered consolation spots alongside the baseline and on the left angle, and he made Milwaukee’s protection pay when it misplaced observe of him. As soon as the mud settled, he had scored 16 factors within the last interval and offered a compelling sequel to his glorious closing effort in a Sport 4 victory.

“I do know when I’ve it going,” Tatum stated. “You’re feeling that rhythm. It isn’t essentially about matching what another person is doing. Discover your spots. Depart all of it on the ground. I wasn’t going to have any regrets.”

The Bucks stay stricken by an lack of ability to search out dependable secondary scorers. Grayson Allen stays in a horrible stoop, having shot simply 2 for 14 on three-pointers over his final 5 video games. Veterans Bobby Portis and Wesley Matthews proceed to be non-factors on offense, leaving Antetokounmpo to do his finest one-man band act, a la LeBron James on the injury-ravaged 2015 Cleveland Cavaliers. Milwaukee shot simply 41 % from the sphere and 24 % from deep, falling in need of 100 factors for the second time this sequence.

“Giannis has been nice for them,” Brown stated. “Relentless in his method. His conditioning is nice. He retains coming. We have got to maintain coming with him.”

To defend their title, the Bucks now should win a Sport 7 on the street, simply as they did in final yr’s second spherical, after they survived 48 factors from Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant in an extra time battle. This yr arguably represents a larger problem: Nets stars James Harden and Kyrie Irving had been injured final spring, and now the Bucks are with out Khris Middleton, who has been Antetokounmpo’s most dependable sidekick.

Since drafting Tatum in 2017, the Celtics are 2-1 in Sport 7s, beating Antetokounmpo’s Bucks in Boston to shut a 2018 first-round sequence, shedding to James’s Cavaliers in Boston in the course of the 2018 Jap Convention finals and topping the Toronto Raptors within the second spherical on the Disney World bubble in 2020.

There are two items of comfort for Milwaukee: On this sequence, neither workforce has gained consecutive video games, and the street workforce has gained 4 of six.

“In 2018, we went to Boston in a Sport 7 and did not have one of the best sport potential,” Antetokounmpo stated. “However you be taught from it. Study from the ambiance and when the ball will get heavy. It doesn’t matter what occurs, we’ll depart that sport and be higher. If we are the workforce is advancing, nice, I hope so. If not, we’ll be taught from this. Exit and play free. Be fearless. We do not owe anyone something.”

This matchup has been a dirty struggle of attrition from the beginning, and it is becoming that it’s going to attain a seventh sport. There have been basic performances from Antetokounmpo, Tatum, Al Horford and Vacation, and now there’s the prospect for another.

“You have received two juggernauts going at it,” Good stated. “We’re beating one another up. We have got home-court [advantage], and we have to maintain enterprise. The Backyard is a spot you do not need to be on the street in Sport 7.”

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