There was a time when the Boston Celtics season seemed in danger of collapsing into a pile of dust. They had a record of defeat at the end of January. They fought a number of injuries. There were questions about whether Jason Tatum could cohabit with Jalen Brown – was it time for the team to discuss trading in Brown? – With the inevitable criticism of Ime Udoka in the first season of the coach.
This is a familiar story at this late stage of the season, but it’s worth repeating, especially now. Why? Because of the break-up of a late-night match on Friday night earlier in the week, the Celtics faced elimination in Milwaukee. Behind their cocoon as they prepared for Game 6, questions revolved around: Did they have a chance to blow up? Will they be able to make the decision to extend the Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Bucks?
However, the Celtics seem to be getting into trouble. Maybe they are destined to play their best when others think they are finished, a sand castle that will melt into the sea. down? Out? Their sand castle is clearly fortified with steel beams and they proved it with a 108-95 win.
“It was a great moment for all of us,” Tetum said minutes after assembling one of the best NBA post-season individual shows. “I think we have shown great resilience and growth.”
There was no doubt about that after Tatum finished with 46 points and 9 rebounds, which helped the series even in three games. In the process, he somehow overshadowed Gianni Antetocumpo, who with 44 points, 20 rebounds and 6 assists tried to drag Bucks to the finish line. It was the series that deserved the seventh game and the Celtics achieved. The 7th game will be held in Boston on Sunday afternoon.
“I believe in everyone in this dressing room,” Tatum said. “We have what we need.”
The Miami Heat, who knocked out Philadelphia 76ers from the post-season on Thursday, are waiting for the winner in the Eastern Conference Finals, the opening game of this series will be held on Tuesday. Heath should have liked that the Celtics continue the series with the Bucks: now these teams have time to hit each other a little more.
“You have two jagnars,” said Celtics Marcus Smart. “We beat each other.”
The Celtics are grateful to be in this position after collapsing in the fourth quarter of Game 5 on Wednesday. This game could have chased them after they gained a 14-point advantage. Smart, in particular, was angry at himself for being late for the game. He recalled going straight to the team gym after the game and then turning up two sleepless nights before the 6th game.
“I feel like I’m depressing my team,” he said.
The good news, Udoka said, was that the Celtics played well in Game 5 – until they stopped playing well. The winning components were there. And they reappeared in Game 6, this time for a full 48 minutes.
Smart was excellent, finishing with 21 points and 7 assists without a break. Brown scored 22 points. And consider the contribution of Derrick White, a former Division II player, and the purchase of a trade term that was ubiquitous in the final three minutes of the first half. He followed with a 3-point short jump. He ordered a free kick by Antetokumpo. He then took two free kicks, giving the Celtics a 10-point lead in the half.
But the reality was that Smart, Brown and White were part of the supporting cast. The scene belonged to Tatum.
“He switched to another mode,” Smart said. “We saw it in his eyes.”
From the start of the playoffs, when he christened the Celtics’ first-round series after winning the game with the Nets, Tetum continued his work to elevate himself as one of the league’s most brutally experienced players.
No, he was not immune from accidental quarreling. In a minor loss to Milwaukee in Game 3, he threw 4 of 19 shots from the field and missed all six of his 3-point attempts. But in the three games since then he has averaged 36.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists, while throwing 47 percent off the field.
On Friday, Tatum played a brilliant all-round game. He scored more than one goal. After coming out of the timeout in the third quarter, he grabbed Bucks Portis from the pole, giving Brown a 17-point lead.
Tatum was also able to counter everything that Antetocumpo could throw at the Celtics, which was a lot. Bax was threatening in the fourth quarter when Antetokumpo sank a three-pointer. Tatum went on to score the Celtics’ next 10 points, a fuss that ended with a deep 3-point lead over Bucks Pat Connauton.
“Obviously, I know when it will come,” Tatum said. “You feel this rhythm.”
Milwaukee, of course, no one counts. Bucks is the reigning champion and Antetocumpo can make intergalactic successes. But without Chris Middleton, the all-star forward, being on the floor, sideways with a left knee strain, Antetocumpo had to do even more than usual.
He obviously needs more help from his teammates on Sunday, especially against stars like Tatum.
Now, after a season of survival and growth, the Celtics see nothing but opportunity ahead of them.
“We still have a chance,” Udoka said, “to make this a better story.”