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Jayson Tatum Outdueled Giannis Antetokounmpo To Force A Game 7

It’s only fitting that the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks will need seven games to decide their epic second round series. Milwaukee entered Friday night’s tilt at Fiserv Forum looking to punch its ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals, but despite Giannis Antetokounmpo putting up a postseason stat line we have not seen since Shaquille O’Neal in the 2001 NBA playoffs, Boston was able to pick up a 108-95 win thanks to perhaps the greatest performance of Jayson Tatum’s career.

Antetokounmpo came out swinging. With the Bucks one win away from making the conference finals, Antetokounmpo scored 17 first quarter points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field and 6-for-6 shooting from the free throw line. This included 10 of the first 14 points that Milwaukee scored on the evening.

It was not enough early on, though, as Marcus Smart and Tatum combined to score 23 points and the Celtics drilled eight of their 15 attempts from three to find themselves up after on, 28-26.

While that hot shooting from deep by the Celtics cooled off a bit in the second, Milwaukee’s offense really struggled to close out the first half. Antetokounmpo had 21 and eight boards at the break and Jrue Holiday had 12, but the remaining players who took the floor for the Bucks combined to score 10 points. Six of those were scored by Bobby Portis, and the collection of players other than those three combined to shoot 2-for-14.

The greatness of Antetokounmpo and Holiday providing some much-needed scoring certainly helped, but it was nowhere near enough. Boston took a 53-43 lead into the locker room, powered by 18 points from Tatum and 16 from Smart, while Derrick White gave the team a huge lift with nine points off the bench.

Boston came out of the locker room firing to start the third quarter to extend its lead to as many as 17 points. For a team that blew a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter last game, the Celtics managed to show their resolve this time around when the Bucks went on a 12-2 run to cut the lead down to eight.

Thanks in large part to Tatum, who scored eight of his 13 points in the final 2:19 of the frame, Boston was able to settle things down, even as Antetokounmpo continued to attack their defense with aplomb. As a result, the Celtics found themselves up 83-70 at the conclusion of the third.

It seemed like Antetokounmpo was cooking up a potentially special fourth quarter to get the Bucks over the line, as he started things out with one of the most emphatic dunks of the postseason.

And then, it looked like disaster was going to strike for the home team. With Milwaukee trailing by 11 and more than 10 minutes remaining, Antetokounmpo tried to attack Grant Williams but got called for a charge, his fifth foul of the game. Mike Budenholzer opted to challenge, though, and the call was overturned, preventing Antetokounmpo from heading to the bench at the worst possible moment.

In the immediate aftermath, the Bucks ripped off a 7-1 run to get the lead down to four, capped off by a three by Antetokounmpo from way downtown.

As things were looking tense for the Celtics, Tatum decided to another level, ripping off 11 points in a row, including a pair of threes that did not even think to touch the rim.

That stretch gave Boston the exact lift it needed to compose itself. The team stretched its lead to as many as 14 points — thanks in large part to Tatum’s stellar game — before the two sides opted to put in the backups for the game’s final 90 or so seconds.

Tatum led all scorers with 46 points on 17-for-32 shooting from the field and 7-for-15 shooting from three, with nine rebounds and four assists for good measure. Brown scored 22, while Smart had 21 with seven assists and five rebounds. Antetokounmpo became the first player since O’Neal in 2001 with a 40/20 game in the playoffs, going for 44 points, 20 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal. But outside of Holiday’s 17 and Pat Connaughton’s 14, seemingly everyone else on the Bucks struggled.

Game 7 between the Celtics and the Bucks will take place in Boston on Sunday afternoon. It is scheduled to tip off at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

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