BOSTON (CBS) — With the Celtics facing elimination on Friday night, they needed a superstar performance from Jayson Tatum. That’s exactly what they got from the 24-year-old, who painted an absolute masterpiece in Boston’s 108-95 win at Milwaukee, forcing a decisive Game 7 against the Bucks in Boston on Sunday.
Tatum was electric throughout the victory, scoring a game-high 46 points to outplay Giannis Antetokounmpo (44 points) on his floor. Tatum scored 15 of those points in the fourth quarter, including 10 in a row after the Bucks cut Boston’s lead to just four points.
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No moment was too big for Tatum in Game 6. He shot 53 percent (17-of-32) overall and made five of his seven shots in the fourth. Tatum had his entire bag of tricks working for him, whether it was from the center or around the rim. He made seven of his 15 attempts from 3-point range, and his fade was as smooth as silk. He was also more than willing to push to the rim and make contact, punishing the Bucks at the rim with seven shots around the basket.
“It was a great performance. With your back against the wall, you love to see JT come out aggressively and take us like he did,” Jaylen Brown said after the win. “Definitely a landmark game for the Celtics and for Jayson.”
“That’s why they pay him so much money,” Marcus Smart said.
Tatum had 18 points at halftime, scoring nine points in both the first and second quarters. He hit all three of his deep shots in the first quarter and then started working inside in the second. He started the frame with a beautiful layup and added another a few minutes later to take Boston’s lead to seven. At that point, it was clear that Tatum was in lockdown.
He got to 31 points late in the third quarter when he finished the frame with a drive-and-1 and a dirty step-back two (he originally ruled a three but then changed during halftime) that had the Celtics up by 14 points. .
After what happened to Boston’s 14-point fourth-quarter lead in Game 5, Tatum and the Celtics were determined not to let history repeat itself on Friday night. But when Tatum rested on the bench to start the fourth, the Bucks chipped away at Boston’s lead. The lead was cut to six when Tatum scored again, and to four after Giannis hit a three.
With the game, and Boston’s season, on the line, Tatum took things to a new level.
“I knew I had it going on the offensive end. It all comes down to the fact that with 5-6 minutes to go, this was our season on the line,” he said at the podium. “Put it all on the ground. That was the mindset he had, the mindset we all had. I wasn’t going to leave anything there and regret it.”
With the sting of Wednesday night on his mind, Tatum set up a clinic. He started his majestic run with a dirty fade of an inside pass as the shot clock rang. After Pat Connaughton cut Boston’s lead to four with a layup, Tatum hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock ran out to increase Boston’s lead to seven. His effortless knockdown of him on Boston’s next possession pushed the lead up to nine.
Tatum missed a layup after a Giannis dunk, and another Connaughton hoop in the paint made things awkward with Boston leading by five. But Derrick White fed him on the wing, and Tatum calmly hit his seventh 3-pointer of the night to make it a 95-87 game with 5:40 left.
His auction was his brush in that section, since none of his marks hit any iron.
This Jayson Tatum 4th Quarter Takeover Was CRAZY 🔥
He didn’t touch the edge even once, all net 🎯 pic.twitter.com/E7W9RNDxu7
— Celtics addicts (@Celtics_Junkies) May 14, 2022
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A drive-and-1 with 2:38 remaining sealed the victory for the Celtics, and he scored his last points of the night at the free throw line with less than two minutes left. He finished an incredible 43 minutes for the face of the franchise.
Tatum’s 46 points are the second-most by a Celtic in an elimination game, trailing only Sam Jones’ 47 points in a Game 7 victory over Cincinnati in 1963. He tied Paul Pierce’s 46 points in the win over Cincinnati. Boston over the 76ers in the series. first round of the 2002 playoffs.
This was the game his critics said Tatum wasn’t capable of. He made the leap that some questioned whether or not he could take. Tatum took over in one of the most high-pressure situations in sports, with Boston facing elimination on the road, and he had his best performance in a Celtics uniform.
On Friday night, Jayson Tatum was the superstar we knew he could be, and is, for the Boston Celtics.
“That’s what we lean on him to do,” Smart said. “He came in and did what he did, took over the game in the fourth and brought it home.
“He went into another mode and you could see it in his eyes,” Smart said of Tatum’s run in the fourth quarter. “He wanted the ball and we gave him the ball. We put it in his hands and let him create for us and for himself.”
Even Antetokounmpo was in awe of Tatum’s performance on Friday night.
“It was incredible. Taking down hard shots, getting the points from him. He led his team to victory,” said Giannis. “As a team, I thought we did a good job of getting in front of him and contesting shots, but he did, and you have to respect that.”
Tatum said he wasn’t trying to match Antetokounmpo, who also did so with an epic 44-point, 20-rebound performance. Tatum’s only goal on Friday was to get the win so the Celtics could see another day.
“I know when he had it going. You feel that rhythm. But it doesn’t match what someone else is doing,” she said. “It’s finding your spots, knowing the time and the score, the game situation, and being aggressive and making the right play.”
Tatum did that over and over and over and over again on Friday night. Now the world waits to see what he will do for an encore in Sunday’s Game 7 at the TD Garden.
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“Game 7s are the biggest and best games. I’m looking forward to it,” Tatum said. “Winning this game and giving us a chance, that’s it. It’s do or die. It’s going to be fun. It’s basketball at the biggest moments on the biggest stage.”