Antetokounmpo poses numbers for Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal. Tatum breaks records for all of these retirees with his 75-year-old franchise with 17 championships.
The Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks haven’t played Game 7 yet.
This is a black and blue series, Snowbag and Advil calculating height in the game. But Antetokounmpo and Tatum made art in Game 6 Friday night, as the Bucks star blasted the Celtics with a forty-four and the Celtics star responded with high-arch dagger jumpers that brutally lengthened every punch to the devastating Bucks crowd.
The Celtics won 108-95 even in the series, winning a second time at Milwaukee last week. The road difference is 4-2, which shows how close these teams are.
Antetokounmpo scored 44 points, 20 rebounds and 6 assists, and is the third player in history to play a 40/20/5 playoff match, the other two being Chamberlain and O’Neill. He has three games of 40 points and 10 rebounds in this series.
He is the third player ever to play three 40-point games against the Celtics in the playoffs. The other two were Jerry West in the historic 1969 Finals when he won MVP despite losing the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James, who did so in 2018 in one of the most prolific streaks of his career.
And Tatum is there with Antetokounmpo. After scoring, rebounding, outside assisting, stealing and shooting Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant in the first round, Tatum heads straight into the current MVP Finals in the series.
Tatum scored 46 points on Friday, the Celtics’ second-most points in an elimination game in team history after only Hall of Famer Sam Jones. He’s had two 45-point games in this playoff round – something that Larry Bird, John Havlichk, Paul Pierce or Bob Causey didn’t do with the Celtics.
When the Bucks trimmed their 18-point lead to five with six minutes to play — flashbacks of the Celtics’ 14-point lead in the fourth quarter come to mind two days ago — Tatum hit a devastating 3-pointer long that broke momentum at perhaps the biggest moment of the night.
“This has been our season on the line, knowing you leave everything on the ground,” Tatum said. “That’s the mentality I have, the mentality we all have. I wouldn’t leave anything in there and have no regrets.”
He made 14 contested shots, according to ESPN Stats & Information, demoralizing the Bucks and their fans. They all came to the Fiserv Forum expecting to see the Bucks win – and why not? This title-winning group won their last eight chances in the playoff matches.
After failing in Game 3 where he played his worst game of the post-season, shooting 4 of 19, Tatum vowed to be even better. In his last three games, Tatum has averaged 37 points and 9.3 rebounds. He set an early tone for the Celtics, scoring 18 points in the first half to give the Celtics a 10-point lead at the break.
Big shots in the fourth quarter, in which Tatum scored 16 goals, were more valuable. This was exactly the kind of effort a superstar puts in elimination games.
“That’s why he gets so much money for moments like this,” said Marcus Smart, who scored 21 points. “I was telling him about the whole game ‘Just be you, man.’ It was.”
Antetokounmue, who plays without the injured Khris Middleton, has stepped up his already unfathomable production. He averaged 35.3 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 6.8 assists in the series. Friday night he went 14 out of 15 at the fow line.
Tatum and Antetokounmpo, although both blessed with the basketball trio in length, versatility, and skill, are very different players. Antetokounmpo grew up a fan of Magic Johnson and Kevin Garnett. Tatum grew up in love with Kobe Bryant. You can see it in their games. It’s not the most natural match.
But that doesn’t matter. There is no way to see what they’ve done over the past two weeks and you don’t want to see more.
Making statements and predictions about how often this duo might do this again is reckless. Nothing is certain. But Antetokounmpo is 27 and Tatum 24.
They will play again this year. The winner will feel as if he won a battle for a prize, and the loser will be devastated – and wait for another chance. What more could a basketball fan ask for?
“I was excited to play Game 6,” Tatum said. “This was a huge moment for me and the team. We believed, we really believed, that we could come in here and win and it showed.”