The Bucks and Celtics met on Wednesday in the marquee matchup of what was opening night for most of the league, as two of the top teams in the East clashed in Boston.
The Celtics led by as many as 17 entering the fourth quarter, but a run led by Giannis Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks roar back into the lead in the final minute. With 8.9 seconds to play, the Celtics had the ball down 120-119 and drew up an out of bounds play that was, simply, give Jayson Tatum the ball and get out of his way. Tatum got a switch from Khris Middleton to Giannis, and proceeded to work to create just enough space to get off a stepback three, which he banked in high off the glass for what we expected to be the game-winner, with just 0.4 seconds left.
That shot gave Tatum 30 points on the night, second to Jaylen Brown’s 33 on the Celtics, but there was time for the Bucks to run one last inbounds play. They chose a lob to Giannis at the rim, who got fouled on a somewhat dubious call on Tristan Thompson.
Awful foul call on Tristan Thompson on the alley-oop inbound to Giannis.
— Celtics News (@CelticsNewsNBA) December 24, 2020
The two-time MVP went the the line for the potentially game-tying free throws, where he made the first and then…
Giannis with the miss.
Celtics with the win. pic.twitter.com/U4jRRYcbNJ
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) December 24, 2020
Antetokounmpo finished the night with 35 points and 13 rebounds, but needed 36 to force overtime and keep Milwaukee alive in the game. Khris Middleton had 27 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists, filling up the stat sheet, while Jrue Holiday chipped in 25 points himself. However, it was the bench unit that struggled to contribute, with just 12 bench points for the Bucks compared to 34 for the Celtics, led by a 19-point night from Jeff Teague.
Boston picks up a win that will give them ample confidence that they can once again make a deep run in the East, even in spite of the absence of Kemba Walker early in the season. For Milwaukee, it was a good night for their star addition, but piecing together the rotation around their trio of stars is clearly going to be a work in progress.