Tatum’s 46 in ‘signature game’ forces Game 7
1: 00 AM ET
MILWAUKEE — Jayson Tatum wasn’t about to let it happen again. Two nights prior, the Boston Celtics had a prime opportunity to take control of the NBA playoffs semifinal series but let Game 5 slip through their hands. On Friday, that wasn’t the case.
As the Milwaukee Bucks made a push in the fourth quarter, Tatum seemingly had an answer at every turn. Tatum scored 28 of his 46 points in the second half, including 16 in the fourth, as Boston held on for a 108-95 victory at Fiserv Forum.
“That’s why he gets paid the big bucks,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “That’s it. It was a moment like that. I was telling him the entire game, just like you man. He was. That’s what he is paid to do. We rely on him to do that. “
The best-of-seven series has been tied at three games each. Game 7 will be in Boston on Sunday afternoon.
In Game 5, the Celtics held a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and were up six with two minutes to play before the Bucks snatched away a victory. On Friday night, the Celtics again held a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter but made sure to leave with a different outcome.
Milwaukee cut the lead to as little as four, but whenever the Bucks had momentum going, the thought of what happened in the previous game started to creep into the collective minds of the Celtics’ bench. Ime Udoka, Boston coach, said that he advised his team not to get stuck in the fourth quarter like they did a week ago and to keep going on the offensive.
” We had the right resolve,” Udoka stated. “We talked about it after that game. Although we lost an opportunity, there was still a chance to make it a better tale. Because we played so well for three-and-a-half quarters, it made us feel good about entering it.
“Everyone was pissed about that outcome, but we knew how well we played throughout the series and let some things slip away. There was never any doubt in our minds or hangovers from that game. We put it to rest the next day, and we look forward to returning to the Garden. “
After the Bucks closed it to 85-81, Tatum responded with a midrange jumper as the shot clock ticked down off an out-of-bounds play. When Milwaukee answered with an acrobatic layup from Pat Connaughton, Tatum answered with a 3-pointer. Tatum’s footwork was displayed to hit a one-legged fadeaway in Boston’s next down.
With 5: 40 left, he nailed another deep trey to push the lead to eight. And with 2: 38 left, Tatum converted an old-fashioned three-point play to put the game out of reach. Tatum stated that Game 5’s collapse was on all Celtics’ minds.
” Tatum said that it was hard to imagine losing a game like that. “Everyone had a bad taste. Learning from film. The eagerness. We were upbeat. We weren’t defeated. We knew that we still had a chance to save our season and win. We believed that. We believed it. We believe in one another and it shows tonight. “
Smart played a big role in the Game 5 loss, getting blocked by Jrue Holiday and getting the ball stolen from him by Holiday in the final 10 seconds. He stated that he went to the practice area immediately after the game to prepare for Game 6.
” Smart stated that tonight would be the first night that he gets some sleep after that game. “I haven’t had any sleep yet. “
Smart started the game like someone who wanted to forget his last game as quickly as possible as he had 14 points in the opening frame while shooting 4-of-6 from deep. Smart stated that he had to set the tone. “We go as I go. I’m the heart of the team. It’s something my teammates tell me all the time. I try to be that person for them. My energy is contagious. That is what I know. I try to bring that to every game. “
Jaylen Brown has been around for plenty of big games by Tatum, but he knew this one carried a little bit more weight.
” “It was a big performance,” Brown stated. “Our backs are against each other, too. It’s great to see JT be aggressive and carry us offensively, like he did in Game 7. Jayson and the Celtics will remember this game as a landmark game. “
Tatum, Brown and Smart combined for 89 of Boston’s 108 points as Brown went for 22 and Smart had 21. The trio combining for 82.4% of the Celtics’ points marked the second-highest percentage by a Boston trio in postseason history behind only Dave Cowens, John Havlicek and Jo Jo White scoring 80 of 91 points on April 20, 1973, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
After Al Horford was effective against the Bucks earlier in the series, they’ve started to play him closer on the perimeter, which has allowed the Celtics’ perimeter players to get going — something Milwaukee tried to stop earlier in the series.
“They were hurt early in the series and tried to take it away, but it opens other opportunities for other guys,” Udoka stated. “We know that we can take advantage. “
With the win, the series returns to Boston and TD Garden. Maybe home court will not be so advantageous. The road team has won four out of six series games, including the last three. The series is down to one game that’s very important, and the Celtics players are eager to be part of it.
” I expect it to be loud. It should be fun. I’m looking forward to being a part of a great team. Brown stated, “I’m looking forward it.” “Game 7 is the best word in basketball. “
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.