Celtics vs. Bucks: Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo go punch for punch in a heavyweight fight for the ages

Celtics vs. Bucks: Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo go punch for punch in a heavyweight fight for the ages

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum gave us a heavyweight fight for the ages on Friday, scoring a combined 90 points on 62 shots. Tatum’s Celtics clinched the win and sent that series to Game 7 on Sunday.

It came down to help. Tatum, who finished with 46 points in 17-for-32 shooting, got more. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combined for 43 points on nine 3-pointers, and both hit crucial 3-pointers on the course. The highest assist Antetokounmpo received was 17 pretty quiet and inefficient points from Jrue Holiday. Except for Pat Connaughton’s 14 from the bench, no other Buck scored more than six points.

Tatum took matters into his own hands in the decisive phase of the game. The Bucks had cut a 14-point lead to four in Boston with just over eight minutes to play on a Giannis 3 from the top of the button. The building was on fire. The Celtics were Just on the verge of losing his footing. Then Tatum 10 rattled straight onto some of the silkiest sweaters you could design.

Less than three minutes later, Boston has increased their lead back to 11 and was safe the rest of the way. Brown called it a “signature” performance by Tatum, and he’s right. Think back to the history of the Boston Celtics, and Tatum fits the bill right now second player in franchise historywho joins Sam Jones to publish multiple 45-point playoff games.

Tatum’s 46 is also the second highest performance by a Boston player in an elimination game, tied with Paul Pierce. Tatum is also one of only five players in history to score more than 45 points to force a Game 7, along with LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain, Kawhi Leonard and Jamal Murray.

Boston, obviously on top of their defense, has become a title contender because Tatum partially toned down hero ball, but the Celtics needed a hero in Game 6 and he performed. He was incredibly efficient on Friday but like Giannis it was sheer willpower.

Tatum has fired 85 shots in the last three games. James Harden fired two shots in the second half of Philly’s season-ending Thursday. He entered Game 6 and shot just 40 percent for the series, but he wasn’t going to come off calmly. He has not and has no intention of ducking from the bright lights.

One always hopes for efficiency, but the relentlessness of a great goalscorer is so appreciated in moments like this. Giannis is the same. Nobody else had it for Milwaukee, so he literally put his head down and scored 44 on 30 shots for the Bucks. He added 20 rebounds to join Shaquille O’Neal as the only player this century to pen a 40-20 game in the playoffs. Throw in his six assists and he’s on his own.

I was really late for the Giannis train. I was and will always be skeptical of players who can’t shoot and have to force their way to the edge (yes, I’m aware that Giannis has improved a lot as a mid-range shooter even as a 3-point shooter, too though the numbers are pretty bad regarding the latter). but force is the operative term here.

Antetokounmpo’s absolute refusal to be denied, his willingness to flirt with out-of-control attacks and turnovers and often commit them by constantly racing downhill, his endless pursuit of offensive boards, bodies hanging from him while he grabs his own and goes right back up, it’s really exhausting to watch. But he never burns out. He never stops cumming. Harden once said Giannis had no skills, and I’ll be damned if part of me didn’t ignorantly agree, but I’m here to tell you, an engine like this on a body like this doesn’t do justice to a skill, it is a superpower.

The Tatum buckets are nicer. Antetokounmpos are inevitable. Because of this, I want to give the Bucks a slight advantage in Game 7, despite Boston’s home field advantage. Giannis will be somewhere close to 40. I would bet almost anything on it. However, Tatum has more reliable offensive support in Brown and Smart, and I’d bet on a big Al Horford game too. Khris Middleton’s absence was really felt in the individual creation of a tense Game 7 at half court.

Anyway it works what a brawl between two of the best players in the game we had on Friday. Given the mentality of these guys, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we get a sequel on Sunday.

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