Many NBA pundits, former Cs like Kendrick Perkins, and even some Boston Celtics fans wrote this team off ahead of a do-or-die Game 6 in the hostile environment known as Deer District.
The Milwaukee Bucks entered the night as the favorites to close this series out after it felt like the floor was ripped out from underneath the shamrocks in the 48th minute of that Game 5. This will be an essential theme entering tonight, can the Celtics play the right way for a full four quarters?
The usual injury report remained the same for each team. The Bucks are still without Khris Middleton due to a knee injury suffered against the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the C’s starting big man, Robert Williams would miss his third straight game with a nagging knee injury suffered pretty early on in the semifinals.
Boston would open up the game firing at will from 3-point range, nine of their first 10 shots were of the long-range variety. These shots were available because of the concerted effort for the Bucks to pack the paint defensively.
It was a seesaw of a back and forth opening as the Celts ended the first up 28-26. Marcus Smart opened the game with 14 of 21 points in the first 12 minutes. On the other side, Giannis Antetokounmpo was bulldozing his way through the paint with 17 of his team-high 44 points in the initial frame.
The second quarter saw the Celtics clamp down defensively holding the Bucks to just 15 points to enter half leading 53-43. It should not seem like a big lead to put much stock in as the problem with the C’s has been easing up off the gas pedal and not playing a full 48.
The third quarter saw Boston increase the lead further to a dozen points entering the fourth, leading 83 to 71. It seemed like a deja vu moment as Boston gave up a double-digit lead last game in one of the most heartbreaking losses in recent memory.
The Bucks would go on a run of sorts to open the quarter with Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart on the bench for the first three minutes. Once the stars were back in the game, a margin that decreased as low as five was able to be maintained and eventually expanded to double digits again.
Tatum and Giannis would have one of the best duels of the playoffs, but it was the Boston Celtics that rallied to force Game 7 in Boston.
Here are 3 takeaways from the gutsy game six win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
1. Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo in a duel for the ages
There is no bigger takeaway than two of possibly the top five players in the game going at it on a grand stage. Jayson Tatum finished the night with a game-high 46 points, coming one point shy of Sam Jones’ Celtics franchise-record 47 points in an elimination game.
The 24-year-old was more involved in the offense having plays run for him to get going offensively. He made the most of the open 3-pointers the Bucks were giving him, the basket never looked as wide as an Olympic swimming pool as it was tonight. Tatum shot 17/32 from the field including seven of 15 from beyond the arc to go with nine rebounds and four dimes.
On the other side of the ball, he was a game-high +21 and he never gave the easy assignments defensively unlike other stars. Using his length to close out on the Bucks’ elite 3-point shooters. That’s the name of his game score a game-high while locking it down defensively because he has turned himself into the complete package.
On the opposite end, the Greek Freak was downright monstrous with a 44-point, 20 rebound and six-assist night. The downside was he was forced into six turnovers and the rest of his team was largely a non-factor. The Bucks only had 95 points, so he accounted for about half of their scoring…and that is not even counting the points he creates by beating the Celts with the assist.
It is tough when Milwaukee cannot turn to their number two in Khris Middleton, it is telling if Giannis will get the necessary support in a Game Seven.