Celtics vs Bucks score takeaway: Jayson Tatum bursts for 46 points to lead Boston to crucial Game 6 win

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum put on performances for the ages Friday night in their 108-95 win as the two All-Stars each eclipsed the board by 40 points as the Boston Celtics forced a do-or-die clash Game 7 against Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.

Tatum was fantastic for the Celtics on a night they needed him as he saved his series best performance for a road elimination game in what can easily be described as a hostile environment. Tatum edged Giannis for a game-high 46 points to go along with nine rebounds and four assists. While his efforts ended in defeat, Antetokounmpo topped the game with 44 points to go along with an astonishing 20 rebounds and six assists.

Game 7 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday with ABC handling the national broadcast.

Here are three key points of the game:

1. Tatum delivers one of the best performances of his career

Jayson Tatum hasn’t always been at his best in this series, but great players don’t let bad plays or bad stretches define them. And Tatum has shown this season, and Friday night in particular, that he is indeed a great player. With the Celtics’ season on the line, he stepped up and delivered one of the best performances of his career.

He got off to a good start, knocking down two 3-pointers in the opening minutes to help the Celtics take an early lead, but his best and most important work came in the fourth quarter. Once up by 18, the Celtics’ lead had been reduced to four with 8:42 left, and the Game 5 flashbacks began. Tatum made sure there wouldn’t be a second straight meltdown.

First, an incredible fade jump across the baseline to beat the shot clock. Next, a 3-point pull-up right in the face of George Hill. Then he repeated the streak with another fadeaway and another 3. In three minutes, he scored 10 straight points for the Celtics and cut the lead to eight to give them some breathing room. The Bucks would never come close.

“Yeah, obviously he hit some big ones throughout the game,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Did that and also made the right play…Huge night by him, we really needed that.”

Tatum had 16 points in the fourth quarter alone and finished the night with 46, nine rebounds and four assists for 17 of 32 from the field. Tatum’s 46 points were the second in franchise history facing elimination, and he joined Sam Jones as the only other Celtic to have multiple 45-point playoff games.

“That’s why he’s paid so much,” Marcus Smart said. “He went into another mode right there. We saw it in his eyes. He was aggressive, he was coming and saying ‘give me the ball’. We gave him the ball. He asked for it and it “That’s what we’re gonna do. Like I said, that’s why he gets paid a lot of money.”

Jayson Tatum is still only 24 years old. He has a decade or more and maybe hundreds of playoff games ahead of him. It’s going to be difficult for him to play a better one than he did on Friday night.

2. Giannis’ Herculean effort wasn’t enough

The Bucks were already a top team before Khris Middleton went down with a first-round MCL sprain against the Chicago Bulls, and without him the problem is even more pronounced. His absence forced Giannis Antetokounmpo to take on a somewhat ridiculous burden and attempt to carry the Bucks on his own.

Sometimes in this series he was able to do just that; the Bucks won three games, after all. But even the best players can’t always do it alone, as Giannis and the Bucks discovered in Game 6.

Giannis was brilliant. He scored 17 points in the first quarter to keep the Bucks in the game despite the Celtics’ strong start, and continued to attack all night. The Celtics couldn’t do much to slow him down, as he headed for the paint for thunderous slams and trips to the free throw line.

“Giannis has been great for them,” Jaylen Brown said. “Relentless in his approach. He will continue, continue to attack. His conditioning is excellent, he doesn’t seem to be as tired as the others. It just keeps coming.

The Greek Freak finished with 44 points, 20 rebounds and six assists, shot 14 of 15 from the free throw line and became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2001 to go 40-20 in the playoffs. .

Giannis had a staggering 45.2% utilization rate — his highest ever in a playoff game — and scored or assisted on 52 of the Bucks’ 95 points. It was a real Herculean effort, and it wasn’t enough. Jrue Holiday and Pat Connaughton were the only other players to score in double figures, but neither tallied more than 17 points. The Bucks missed Middleton throughout the series, but never more than Game 6.

3. Celtics show resolve after Game 5 collapse

The Celtics should have come to Milwaukee to close the series on Friday night. Instead, they were the ones who were knocked out after a late slump in Game 5 that saw them lose a 13-point fourth-quarter lead at home. Recovering from a heartbreaking loss like that takes a lot of determination, self-belief and mental toughness.

After avoiding elimination on the road, it’s clear the Celtics have all of the above.

“I think how stingy it was, losing that game like that,” Jayson Tatum said. “Everyone had a bad taste in their mouths. Watching a movie, learning from it and the eagerness – we were optimistic. We weren’t defeated, knowing we still had an opportunity to salvage our season and come here and get a win. We believed it, we really believed it. We believed in each other and it showed tonight.”

The work is far from over. Beating the best player in the world for a second game in a row to knock out the defending champions won’t be easy, and the Celtics will have to regroup again for Game 7 at home on Sunday. Still, a performance like Friday night’s speaks volumes about the character of this group.

“It was a great moment for all of us,” Tatum said. “For me and for the team, how would we react. Losing Game 5 was going to make or break us. We showed a lot of tenacity and growth coming here and getting a win on the road.”

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