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Tatum’s huge effort helps Celtics win 108-95 to force Game 7


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Jayson Tatum wouldn’t let that happen again.

With defending champion Milwaukee Bucks attempting to complete a fourth quarter comeback for the second straight game and close out their Eastern Conference semi-final, Tatum made sure the Boston Celtics kept their season alive and forced a decisive seventh game.

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Tatum scored 46 points and the Celtics held off a brilliant performance from Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo to win 108-95 on Friday night, the third straight win for a road team in this thrilling series.

“I wasn’t going to leave anything out there and have any regrets,” Tatum said. “I’m just trying to do the right thing.”

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics tries to get past Wesley Matthews of the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of Game 6 of an NBA Basketball Eastern Conference Semifinals playoff series Friday, May 13, 2022 in Milwaukee. The Celtics won 108-95 to tie the series at 3-3. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
((AP Photo/Morry Gash))

After the Bucks cut a 14-point deficit to four with just under 9 minutes left, Tatum took over the game. He scored 16 of Boston’s 26 points in the fourth quarter.

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“He was amazing,” said Antetokounmpo, who was pretty extraordinary on his own with 44 points, 20 rebounds and six assists.

Tatum’s effort set up a win-win Sunday in Boston. The winner will travel to Miami to start an Eastern Finals game with the top-seeded Heat on Tuesday.

Tatum’s huge effort helps Celtics win 108-95 to force Game 7

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks is fouled by Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA Basketball Eastern Conference Semifinals playoff series Friday, May 13, 2022 in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
((AP Photo/Morry Gash))

“I don’t think anyone has won back-to-back games in this series,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Now this is the finality. You have to find a way to get that fourth win and win the series. I think everyone in sports is looking for this game. That college feeling. That NCAA feeling, where if you lose your season is over, if you win, you carry on. It’s exciting.”

The Bucks had won all eight of their potential series during Budenholzer’s four-year tenure before Friday. It was the first time the Bucks had lost a potential game-winning advantage since a Game 7 loss to Boston in a 2018 first-round series.

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Boston showed its mettle as it bounced back two nights after squandering a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in a 110-107 Game 5 home loss. The Bucks tried to rally again after trailing by 14 in the final period, but this time the Celtics stayed ahead.

“Tonight will be the first night since this game that I’m going to get some sleep,” said Marcus Smart, who had 21 points, seven assists and no turnovers.

Jaylen Brown added 22 points for the Celtics, who capitalized on their 3-point advantage. The Celtics were 17 of 43 and the Bucks 7 of 27 from beyond the arc.

Tatum’s huge effort helps Celtics win 108-95 to force Game 7

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks over Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics during the second half of Game 6 of an NBA Basketball Eastern Conference Semifinals playoff series Friday, May 13, 2022 in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Antetokounmpo tried to lead the Bucks to an unlikely second comeback in a row.

Boston led 84-70 into the first minute of the fourth quarter and led 84-73 when officials ruled Grant Williams fired a charge for Antetokounmpo’s fifth foul. But the Bucks contested the call and it was overturned on the replay, instead sending Antetokounmpo to the line with four fouls.

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Antetokounmpo made both free throws to start an 8-0 run that brought the Bucks back into the game. The Bucks cut the margin to 85-81 on Antetokounmpo’s 3-pointer with 8:42 left.

Tatum said he was thinking about the Game 5 meltdown as the Bucks started to rally. He wanted to make sure the Bucks didn’t win the balls 50-50 and dominate the glass like they did on Wednesday.

“They were tougher than us in that fourth quarter of Game 5,” Tatum said. “It was in the back of my mind. It was in the back of everybody’s mind, that we couldn’t get beat on this kind of game. Our season was on the line.”

Tatum wouldn’t let the Bucks come close.

After that 8-0 push from the Bucks, Tatum scored the Celtics’ next 11 points. That included a fade jump as the shot clock expired to cut the lead to six plus some 3 points.

“He went into another mode right there,” Smart said. “We saw it in his eyes.”

Tatum and Brown each hit a 3-pointer on an 8-0 push that ended with Smart’s jumper going 100-87 with 4:20 remaining.

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Boston held a double-digit advantage for the remainder of the run.

“We had the right resolution,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “We talked about it after that game. We missed an opportunity (Wednesday) but we still had a chance to make a better story out of it, I guess.”

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