Celtics vs. Bucks result, takeaways: Jayson Tatum breaks out for 46 points to lead Boston to decisive Game 6 win

Celtics vs. Bucks result, takeaways: Jayson Tatum breaks out for 46 points to lead Boston to decisive Game 6 win

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum made for the ages in their 108-95 win on Friday night as the two All-Stars each surpassed the 40-point plateau as the Boston Celtics forced a decider against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 on Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden.

Tatum was fantastic for the Celtics on a night they needed him as he saved his best performance of the series for an eliminator on the road in an environment that could easily be described as hostile. Tatum edged out Giannis with a game-high 46 points, along with nine rebounds and four assists. While his try resulted in a loss, Antetokounmpo was dominant and finished the game with 44 points along with a staggering 20 rebounds and six assists.

Game 7 is scheduled for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET, with ABC handling national broadcasts.

Here are three key takeaways from the game:

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

Jayson Tatum hasn’t always been at his best throughout this series, but bad games or bad tracks don’t define great players. And Tatum has shown this season, and especially on Friday night, that he is indeed a great player. With the Celtics season at stake, he stepped up and delivered one of the best performances of his career.

He got off to a hot 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. At 8:42, the Celtics’ lead was down to four after 18, and Game 5 flashbacks began. Tatum made sure there wouldn’t be a second collapse in a row.

First, an incredible fadeaway jumper at the baseline to beat the shot clock. Next, a pull-up 3-pointer right into George Hill’s face. He then repeated the sequence with another fadeaway and another 3. Within three minutes he scored 10 straight points for the Celtics and pushed the lead back to eight to give them some breathing room. The Bucks would never get any closer.

“Yeah, obviously he hit some big ones throughout the game,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “Did that and made the right play too… Great night from him we definitely needed it.”

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

“That’s why he gets the big bucks,” said Marcus Smart. “He went into a different mode right there. We saw it in his eyes. He was aggressive, he came and said to us: ‘Give me the ball.’ “We gave him the ball. He asked for it and we’re going to do that. Like I said, that’s why he’s getting the big money.”

Jayson Tatum is still only 24 years old. He has a decade or more and possibly hundreds of playoff games ahead of him. It will be difficult for him to play better than on Friday night.

2. Gianni’s Herculean effort wasn’t enough

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

At times in this series he’s managed to do just that; After all, the Bucks have won three games. But even the best players can’t always do it alone, as Giannis and the Bucks found out 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 attacked all night. There was little the Celtics could do to slow him down as he headed for the paint for thunderous slams and trips to the free-throw line.

“Giannis was great for her,” said Jaylen Brown. “Relenting in his approach. He’ll keep going, keep attacking. His condition is great, it doesn’t seem like he’s getting as tired as others. He’s just going to keep going.”

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

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

3. Celtics show determination after Game 5 collapse

The Celtics should have come to Milwaukee Friday night to wrap up the series. Instead, they were the ones facing elimination after a late collapse in Game 5 that saw them lose a 13-point lead at home in the fourth quarter. Recovering from a heartbreaking loss like this takes tremendous determination and mental strength of confidence.

After preventing elimination on the road, it’s clear the Celtics have it all.

“I just think how much it hurt to lose that game like that,” said Jayson Tatum. “Everyone had a bad taste in their mouth. Watching films, learning from them and the zeal – we were optimistic. We didn’t get defeated because we knew we still had a chance to salvage our season and come here and get a win. We believed it, we really did it. We believed in each other and tonight it showed.”

The work is far from done. It won’t be easy beating the best player in the world for a second straight game to eliminate the defending champions and the Celtics will need to regroup for Game 7 at home on Sunday. Nevertheless, a performance like Friday night says a lot about the character of this group.

“It was a big moment for all of us,” Tatum said. “For me and the team, exactly how we would react. Losing Game 5 would decide us over or over us.

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