This time, the Boston Celtics did not give up.
As they faced in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Milwaukee Bucks turned a double-digit deficit into a nail-biter in the middle of the fourth quarter, but this time Jason Tatum did not let them go to the hump. Tatum thwarted another Monster Giannis Antetoconampo’s attempt with 46 points and a 108-95 win, forcing Boston to return to Game 7 at 3:30 p.m. Sunday (ABC) ET.
Antetokounmpo recorded the first 40-point, 20-rebound playoff game from Shaquille O’Neal in 2001. Twice MVP’s 44 points (14-30 FG, 2-3 3P, 14-15 FT) marked the third 40-point in four games overnight. His 20 rebounds and six assists in the defeat put him at 35-14-7 in six games against Boston. Antetokounmpo was dominating as usual, playing as he wanted to end the series in Milwaukee.
But it was Tatum’s night. He surpassed one of the best living players of his career.
The Celtics pushed their lead to 68-50 in the third quarter, once again looking like a good team for a long night. Moreover, as Boston learned in the collapse of Game 4, Milwaukee never gave up. Second clutch Pat Canton 3-pointer scored 8-0 to bring the box within six. Antetokounmpo’s 3-pointer reduced the Celtics’ lead to 85-81 with 8:42 left, reflecting Milwaukee’s comeback on Wednesday.
Only, Tatum took Boston’s next 10 points on a brilliant array of jump shots to lead his team to eight. The 22-footer of Brown Triple and Smart increased it to 100-87 with 4:20 left. There were enough pillows.
Brown scored 22 points, and Smart added 21 points. In the 30 minutes off the bench, Derrick White scored nine points, five rebounds, two assists and two stills. Tatum completed 17 of 32 from the field (7-15 3P), adding nine rebounds and four assists. All four scored all but three of Boston’s field goals in Game 6.
The Bucks will now face Game 7 at TD Garden – the result of their decision to drop Boston to No. 2 at the end of the regular season and avoid the Brooklyn Net in the first round. Getting to the top of Friday’s Tatum-Antetokounmpo duel is as difficult as it gets, as it seems Sunday is the title.