This time, the Boston Celtics did not give it away.
Just as they had in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Milwaukee Bucks turned a double-digit deficit into a nail-biter midway through the fourth quarter, but Jayson Tatum would not let them get over the hump this time. Tatum scored 46 points to spoil another monster Giannis Antetokounmpo effort and deliver a 108-95 road victory, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday (ABC).
Antetokounmpo registered the first 40-point, 20-rebound playoff game since Shaquille O’Neal in 2001. The two-time MVP’s 44 points (14-30 FG, 2-3 3P, 14-15 FT) marked his third 40-point night in four games. His 20 rebounds and six assists in defeat brought his averages through six games against Boston to a cool 35-14-7. Antetokounmpo was as dominant as ever, playing like he wanted to end the series in Milwaukee.
But this was Tatum’s night. He out-dueled the best player alive in one of the best games of his career.
The Celtics pushed their lead to 68-50 midway through the third quarter, once again looking like the better team for much of the night. Except, as Boston learned in a Game 4 collapse, Milwaukee never quit. An 8-0 run, capped by another clutch Pat Connaughton 3-pointer, brought the Bucks within six. Antetokounmpo’s 3-pointer cut the Celtics’ lead to 85-81 with 8:42 remaining, mirroring Milwaukee’s comeback on Wednesday.
Only, Tatum scored Boston’s next 10 points on a dazzling array of jump shots to edge his team’s lead back to eight. A Brown triple and Smart’s 22-footer stretched it to 100-87 with 4:20 left. It was cushion enough.
Brown scored 22 points, and Smart added 21. Derrick White‘s nine points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 30 minutes off the bench proved vital. Tatum finished 17 of 32 from the field (7-15 3P), adding nine rebounds and four assists. Those four accounted for all but three of Boston’s field goals in Game 6.
The Bucks now face a Game 7 at TD Garden — the result of their decision at the end of the regular season to concede the No. 2 seed to Boston and avoid the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. As hard as it might be to top Friday’s Tatum-Antetokounmpo duel, buckle up, because it feels like a title is on the line on Sunday.
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