Jayson Tatum scored 46 points, outdueling Giannis Antetokounmpo and making sure there wouldn’t be another Milwaukee Bucks fourth-quarter comeback, as the Boston Celtics beat the defending champions 108-95 on Saturday to force a seventh game in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
The third straight victory for a road team sets up a winner-take-all game on Monday in Boston. The victor heads to Miami to begin an East finals matchup with the top-seeded Heat on Wednesday.
Boston showed its grit by bouncing back two nights after blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 110-107 game five home loss. The Bucks tried to rally again after trailing by 14 points in the final period, but this time Tatum kept the Celtics on top and kept their season alive.
Antetokounmpo had 44 points, 20 rebounds and six assists. His 20 rebounds were one off his career-high.
With the tantalising battle, Tatum and Antetokounmpo become just the fifth pair of opponents to each score more than 44 points in a playoff game.
Jaylen Brown scored 22 and Marcus Smart had 21 for the Celtics, who capitalised on their superiority from 3-point range. The Celtics were 17 of 43 and the Bucks 7 of 27 from beyond the arc.
Antetokounmpo tried to lead the Bucks to a second straight improbable comeback.
Boston led 84-70 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter and was up 84-73 when officials ruled Grant Williams had drawn a charge for Antetokounmpo’s fifth foul. But the Bucks challenged the call and it was overturned on replay, instead sending Antetokounmpo to the line with four fouls.
Antetokounmpo made both free throws to start an 8-0 run that got the Bucks back into the game. The Bucks trimmed the margin to 85-81 on Antetokounmpo’s 3-pointer with just under nine minutes left.
Tatum wouldn’t let the Bucks get any closer.
After that 8-0 Bucks spurt, Tatum scored the Celtics’ next 11 points. That included a fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expired to get the lead back to six plus a couple of 3-pointers.
Tatum and Brown each hit a 3-pointer during an 8-0 spurt that closed with Smart’s jumper that made it 100-87 with four minutes remaining.
Boston maintained a double-digit edge the rest of the way.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!