Jason Tatum saved the Boston Celtics season with 46 points

There was a time when the Boston Celtics’ season seemed in danger of collapsing into a pile of fine dust. They had a losing track record in late January. They were quarreling through a series of injuries. There have been questions about whether Jason Tatum could get along with Jaylen Brown – is it time for the team to consider trading Brown? Besides the inevitable criticism of Im Odoka in his first season as a coach.

It’s a familiar history at this late stage of the season, but one worth repeating, especially now. why? Because on Friday night, following the game’s late meltdown earlier in the week, the Celtics were facing elimination in Milwaukee. Outside their cocoon, while they were preparing for Game 6, the questions arose: Did they miss their chance? Could they somehow find the determination to extend the semi-final series in the Eastern Conference with the Bucks?

Despite this, the Celtics seem to embrace adversity. They’re probably primed to play at their best when everyone thinks they’re done, a sandcastle about to drift into the sea. under? Outside? Their sand castle appears to be reinforced with steel beams, and they proved it with a 108-95 victory.

“This was a big moment for all of us,” Tatum said just minutes after putting together one of the best singles performances in the NBA after the season ended. “I think we’ve shown a lot of solidity and growth.”

There was no doubt about that after Tatum finished 46 points and 9 rebounds to help up the series in three games each. In the process, he somehow overshadowed Giannis Antetokounmpo, who attempted to pull the Bucks across the finish line with 44 points, 20 rebounds, and 6 assists. It was a series worthy of a seventh game, and the Celtics handed it over. Game seven on Sunday afternoon in Boston.

“I believe in everyone in this locker room,” Tatum said. “We have what it takes.”

The Miami Heat, who ousted Philadelphia 76ers from the post-season on Thursday, await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals, with the opening game of that series scheduled for Tuesday. The Heat must have been happy to see the Celtics extend their streak with the Bucks: now these teams have time to beat each other even more.

“I’ve got two Juggernauts working on it,” said Marcus Smart of the Celtics. “We hit each other.”

The Celtics are grateful to be in that position after collapsing in the fourth quarter of Game Five on Wednesday. That match could have chased them after they blew up a 14-point lead. Smart, in particular, was mad at himself for making a few slips late in the game. He remembers going straight to the team’s training facility after the game, then flipping and turning during two sleepless nights before Game 6.

“I feel like I let my team down,” he said.

The good news, Odoka said, is that the Celtics played really well in Game Five – until they stopped playing well. The winning ingredients were there. It was shown again in Game 6, this time for a full 48 minutes.

Smart was outstanding, ending the match with 21 points and 7 assists without a spin. Brown scored 22 points. Consider the contributions of former Second Division player Derek White and acquisition of the trade deadline who was all over the place in the last three minutes of the first half. I have followed a triple pointer with a short birdie. He wrongly charged Antetokounmpo. He then made two free throws, lifting the Celtics to a 10-point lead in the first half.

But the truth was that Smart, Brown, and White were part of the supporting cast. The stage belongs to Tatum.

“He got into another situation,” Smart said. We saw it in his eyes.

From the start of the playoffs, when he christened the Celtics’ first-round series with the net with the game-winning layup, Tatum began his work of raising his profile as one of the league’s most skilled players.

No, he wasn’t immune to the occasional clunker. In a narrow loss to Milwaukee in Game 3, he fired 4 of 19 from the field and missed all six of his 3-point attempts. But in the three games since then, he’s averaged 36.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field.

On Friday, Tatum played a great game in all respects. He did more than one recording. Coming out of a timeout in the third quarter, he stripped Bobby Portes of the Bucks in the position, leading to a layup for Brown and a 17-point lead.

Tatum was also able to take on everything Antetokounmpo could throw at the Celtics, which was a lot. Dollars were threatening in the fourth quarter when Antitoconmo sank three indexes. Tatum proceeded to score the Celtics’ next 10 points, capping a 3-deep pointer over the top of Pat Connaughton in the Bucks.

“Obviously I know when I’m going to last,” Tatum said. “You feel that rhythm.”

Nobody counts Milwaukee, of course. The Bucks are the title holders, and Antetokounmpo is capable of intergalactic feats. But without Khris Middleton, an All-Star striker who was sidelined with a left knee sprain, Antetokounmpo would have had to do more Antetokounmpo things than usual.

He clearly needs more help from his teammates on Sunday, especially against the likes of Tatum, a superstar in his own right.

Now, after a season of survival and growth, the Celtics see nothing but opportunity in front of them.

“We still have a chance to make it a better story,” Odoka said.

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