This series had to go seven games.
Bucks vs. Celtics may be the real NBA Finals — name another team playing better than either of these two. From Game 1 it’s been evenly matched, intense, physical, with two elite defenses and two of the top five players in the world going head-to-head.
Friday night, it was the Jayson Tatum show: 46 points — including 11 straight in the fourth quarter — on 53% shooting and knocking down seven 3-pointers. Tatum has had some off games this series, but when the Celtics’ backs were against the wall he had an MVP-level performance. He was getting downhill and looked every bit the best player on a championship team.
Throw in the Celtics were hot from beyond the arc — 17-made 3-pointers on 39.5% shooting — and it was too much for the Bucks at home.
Celtics raining three early in this one pic.twitter.com/o7273cC6nr
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 13, 2022
The Celtics won Game 6 108-95, forcing a decisive Game 7 on Sunday back in Boston.
On the final day of the regular season, the Bucks tanked a game and lost to fall to the No. 3 seed, avoiding Kevin Durant and the Nets and lining up against the perceived softer Bulls. That comes back to bite them now as they will have to play Game 7 on the road. Although, in this series the road team has won four of the six games.
Giannis Antetokounmpo did everything he could to end the series, having a historic night with 44 points and 20 rebounds.
40/20 playoff games since 2000:
— Giannis pic.twitter.com/WQjq8RiGVM
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 14, 2022
Tatum had more help. Jaylen Brown scored 22, and Marcus Smart added 21.
Jrue Holiday added 17 for the Bucks but needed 17 shots to get there. Pat Connaughton had 14 off the bench.
In a tight, defensive series, it’s the little things that win games. Such as the Celtics limiting their turnovers (eight) and keeping Antetokounmpo and the Bucks out of transition and in the halfcourt (where they really miss the injured Khris Middleton).
It’s also the Celtics not settling for isolations and moving the ball — 12 assists on 19 buckets in the first half. It was Boston being more dialed in on mismatches and going at Grayson Allen every chance they got (he was -29 in the game).
Now we head to Game 7. There are no more secrets between these teams, no adjustment that changes everything. It’s about execution. It’s about toughness.
Both the Celtics and Bucks are overflowing with those qualities, which is why this has been the best second-round series.
And why it had to go seven games.