Jayson Tatum was left with a "terrible feeling" after the NBA Finals series defeat as he called on the Boston Celtics to "take it up another level".

The Celtics struggled against Stephen Curry in Game 6, the Golden State Warriors winning 103-90 after he posted 34 points, hitting six-of-11 threes, while adding seven rebounds and seven assists.

That helped the Warriors to an unassailable 4-2 series lead and fourth NBA Championship in just eight years, while Curry claimed his first NBA Finals MVP award.

Golden State were 2-1 down in the series at one point, but a three-game winning run meant Boston's 14-year wait to win the NBA Championships continued.

Tatum expressed his frustrations after the match as he admitted the Celtics fell short of expectations.

"It's hard. It's hard getting to this point. It's even harder getting over it, the hump, and win it. It's been a long journey, a long process," the Boston star said.

"Being with this group, the things we've overcome throughout the season, getting to this point. Just knowing how bad we wanted it, coming up short. It's a terrible feeling.

"That's what I took from it: it's tough. You got to take it up another level to do what we want to do.

"We all could have done things better. I feel like I could have done a lot of things better. But, like we said, we competed, we tried all season, all playoffs."

Marcus Smart was speaking alongside Tatum and vowed that the Celtics will bounce back stronger after the experience of the Golden State defeat.

"For us, it's just hard-nosed, it's who we are," Smart added. "We're a family. We take and accept every challenge head on no matter the outcome, no matter the advantages we have or disadvantages.

"We're going to take it full-heartedly. The guys came out here and competed. We could have [given] up, but we didn't. I think that shows the foundation that we have here.

"We see what we're capable of. We got a taste of it. We want the whole thing. I know for a fact that we're going to be back a different team. We're going to put in the work. But this one's going to hurt."

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart highlighted how the bumpy journey to this point is what makes his team so unified, after they produced a near-perfect defensive fourth quarter to defeat the Golden State Warriors 116-110 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

The win gives the Celtics a 2-1 series lead, with a chance to go up 3-1 by holding serve at home in Game 4.

In the process, the Celtics core of Smart, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown became the first trio since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper in 1984 to all have at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in a Finals game.

The Celtics needed to get up off the canvas after a trademark Golden State Warriors third-quarter run saw them claw back from a 12-point half-time deficit to take an 83-82 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the third.

In response, the Celtics held the Warriors to just 11 points in the fourth quarter, completely shutting down one of the most dynamic offenses in league history to lock up the win at home.


Smart, who has been criticised for trying to be too involved in the Celtics offense while neglecting his point guard duties, credited his star team-mates for helping him believe in his own scoring ability.

"The 'Jays' – Jayson and Jaylen – have done a really good job of encouraging me to be aggressive on the offensive end," he said. "And really understanding that for me, in this team, I have to be aggressive to help us win."

Smart's relationship with the 'Jays' goes deeper than basketball, and he said it took some growing up, as well as some tough conversations for the trio to become who they are today.

"First off, this is a family here," he said. "I grew up with the Jays.

"I've been playing five years with Jaylen, four years with Jayson. When my mom passed… they all came down to the funeral, so we've already had that bond.

"Early on in the season for us, it's just like it is with your siblings. 

"You get into it, you squabble, you're mad at each other – and then the next day you're laughing, talking, hugging… giving each other their roses, and that's what this team is.

"It started off shaky for us, but that right there is what helped us get to where we are now. We had to go through the storm to see the rainbow at the end of it.

"For me, I had to look myself in the mirror. Along with my team-mates, we had to have a heart-to-heart, we had to sit down and have that hard talk, and understand that what we're saying is to help each other.

"It's nothing bad, it's nothing personal, it's to help us get to where we want to be. It's crazy, we're here, and nobody thought we would be here… but we stayed with it, and that's why I'm proud of this team, and it's what makes us who we are."

The Celtics have done plenty of soul-searching this season, and it was the case again after a demoralising Game 2 loss, but Smart said he was determined to not let the Warriors "bully" his side.

"We pride ourselves on being a physical team, and for us, [Game 2] left a bad taste in your mouth," he said.

"Coming out of Game 2, hearing and knowing that we got beat up. It's just like anybody else, if you're in a fight with a bully or anything, you've got to keep going, you've got to stand up."

When asked if he feels like the Celtics are in a fight with a bully, Smart replied: "We definitely are, we got the Golden State Warriors, who have done this before, multiple times, and they understand what it's like to be here.

"We're that little guy that is new to the school, and they want to see exactly what you've got. They came out and punched us in our mouth in Game 2, and we responded.

"We watched the film – and that was a nasty film session for us. It was ugly, we had to sit there and watch the whole film.

"You have to look yourself in the mirror and get it together. Coming out today it was not a matter of 'are we going to be physical' – it was 'how physical are we going to be'."

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart insists his side's run to the NBA Finals has been borne of a more balanced defence heading into Game 2 against the Golden State Warriors.

The Celtics gave up the fewest points per game in the regular season at 104.5 while leading the league in defensive rating (106.9) and net rating (+7.5), while they only trail the Milwaukee Bucks for defended field goals made these playoffs at 43.3 per cent.

Smart, who received the Defensive Player of the Year and a third All-Defensive First-Team selection this season, has been a significant contributor in that regard with 1.2 steals along with his 15.7 points per game in these playoffs.

The 28-year-old believes it has been a collective effort for Boston in comparison to previous seasons, however, with every player pulling their weight.

"No offence to those other teams, but there was always somebody on the court that we had to cover for," he said. "Teams did a good job of exploiting that, and especially in the playoffs.

"It's all about adjustments and match-ups, and if it ain't broke don't fix it, so somebody would always pick on a guy that we had and we'd always have to help, and it put a strain on our defence. This year, kind of tough to do that.

"In every position, everybody can hold their own and switch and guard multiple positions, and that's what makes us stronger."

It was the other end that gave the Celtics Game 1 in San Francisco on Thursday, though, converting on 21 three-pointers at an eye-watering 51.2 per cent.

Jayson Tatum's dribble penetration was key, allowing for defensive collapses that then created relatively open looks for his teammates.

Smart believes that might change in Game 2, with the Warriors defensive help staying a little closer to home.

"I wouldn't say we were surprised," he said. "You've got two great players in Jaylen and Jayson on your team, everybody's focused on those guys, going to make everybody else beat you and you live with the results.

"An adjustment I can see them making, just a little bit more tighter on us and trying to make our shots even tougher, not that open. We're basketball players, just like those guys and we're going to have to adjust to whatever they do."

The Boston Celtics stole home-court advantage with their impressive win against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals – but it is a long series, and both teams have some adjustments to make.

In the Celtics' 120-108 victory, Jayson Tatum did not shoot the ball well (three-of-17 from the field), but made up for it with his playmaking, dishing a career-high 13 assists to take advantage of an outlier shooting performance from the rest of his team.

For the Warriors, a dynamic 38-24 third period had them leading by 12 heading into the last, before a fourth-quarter bombardment saw a 103-100 lead turn into a 117-103 deficit courtesy of a 17-0 run.

Stephen Curry was spectacular, with 21 points and a Finals-record six three-pointers in just the first quarter, going on to finish with 34 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

With Game 2 scheduled for Sunday night, here is one key adjustment we could see from both teams as the series progresses, and a storyline to watch.

 

Warriors play no more than one big at a time

When the Warriors were at the peak of their dynasty, Draymond Green would play center, surrounded by four perimeter players.

Due to his excellent play this postseason – as well as playing all 82 regular season games, starting 80 – center Kevon Looney has earned a significant playoff role. 

He was the difference-maker when trusted with an extended run in his side's Game 6 closeout against the Memphis Grizzlies, collecting 22 rebounds, and he was terrific against a Dallas Mavericks side lacking a true center, averaging 10.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and three assists per game for the series.

To put the blame of the Game 1 loss on Looney is simply wrong. He was not just serviceable, he was good, with nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks in his 25 minutes – but the Warriors are simply not the same beast on the offensive end when he and Green are on the floor at the same time.

However, this does not mean they must bench Looney, but instead the Warriors may be forced into some difficult conversations about the effectiveness of Green in this series.

Green is no longer the explosive athlete he was at the peak of his powers – when he was clearly the best defensive player in the NBA – and without that athleticism he begins to feel like the 6'6 center that he is.

Calling him a non-factor on the offensive end is disrespectful due to his incredible basketball IQ and the value he adds with his ball-movement, passing and screening – but these are areas Looney has quietly excelled in as well.

Looney, significantly bigger at 6'9, matched Green with five assists, showing plenty of similar reads and the ability to function in a largely similar role on the offensive end. He also grabbed six offensive rebounds, providing serious tangible value in the form of extra possessions, while also being the Warriors' only real rim protector.

Green will likely not shoot two-of-12 from the field again – missing all four of his three-point attempts and all three of his free throws – but if he is weighing you down offensively while not bringing his once-outlier defensive ability, it just may be a Looney series against the real size of Al Horford and Robert Williams III.

Golden State Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green took some time during Wednesday's NBA Finals Media Day to reflect on the evolution of their once-mocked franchise since their arrival.

Curry was drafted in 2009, Klay Thompson followed in 2011, before Green was selected in 2012, setting the foundation for one of the league's greatest dynasties.

After announcing themselves on the world stage through gutsy performances against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 playoffs and a seven-game series against the 'Lob City' Los Angeles Clippers in 2014, the Warriors began a five-year streak of making the NBA Finals, winning titles in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

When asked about his thoughts on the Warriors before he was drafted, Curry admitted he truly believed he was going to be selected by the New York Knicks, and discussed the turmoil that followed his selection.

"What did I think about the organisation? I didn't think much about it," he said.

"I grew up on the east coast, so I mean I watched games, but all I really knew was the 'We Believe' team, and the Baron Davis dunk, and beating Dallas [in 2007].

"When I got drafted I thought I was going to New York, and I didn't really have Golden State on the radar at all.

"Then there was a lot of drama with my rookie year, with a potential Phoenix trade on draft night, [if] me and Monte [Ellis] could play together as a small back-court – 'can we play together?' – and obviously what his answer was at the time."

In a 2009 interview, Ellis replied "we just can't" when asked if he can see himself and Curry playing together, going on to say they "are not going to win that way".

Curry continued: "So there's a lot going on in that sense, but to see the evolution from that year to now, and the fact that six out of the last eight years we've been in the Finals. It's crazy to think about, for sure.

"It speaks to all the different people who have played a part in that – myself, Draymond, Klay, Andre, all the vets who have played significant roles for us, our front office… it's been an amazing run, and we obviously feel like we have a lot left in the tank, that's why we're here."

Green arrived three years after Curry, but he had similar stories, going as far as calling the Warriors "the laughing stock of the NBA".

"I knew [Golden State] won 23 games the year before, and they were the laughing stock of the NBA – but I also knew they had two guys who could really shoot the lights out of the ball," he said.

"Everybody was like man, we were the last-ranked defense in the league, we won 23 games last season, we've been to the playoffs one time in 10 or 11 years – that was kind of the aura that was around.

"We just came in hungry, we wanted to change that, and we did. But it wasn't always this.

"I remember walking downtown Oakland giving away tickets to the game as a rookie – for one of our team activation or community things we had to do – certain guys had to go to the park and give tickets away.

"I remember that, it wasn't that long ago. It was a much less-respected franchise, but we were able to change that, and that's what it's all about."

It wasn't all looking backwards for Green, though, as he also shared his respect for the Boston Celtics and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart.

"You respect and admire that everyone is defending – there is not a guy who comes on the floor that isn't giving 110 per cent on that side of the ball," he said.

"You have to give a lot of respect to [coach] Ime [Udoka] – that's not a much different squad than we've seen… since Kyrie left. It's not a much different team, yet more has been required of them, and they've answered that bell.

"You have to give a lot of credit to them, and you have to give a lot of credit to Marcus Smart, who is their leader on that side of the ball.

"In order to have everyone come in and play [hard], there has to be some leadership there that's holding it all together, and is holding somebody responsible, and to me I think that's Marcus Smart… I appreciate that more than anything."

So here we are, after all that basketball in 2021-22, we come down to the final pair as the Golden State Warriors take on the Boston Celtics to decide the destination of this year's NBA championship.

It was a relatively smooth route for the Warriors after a 4-1 win against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, while the Celtics went to Game 7 for the second round in a row, eventually overcoming the Miami Heat.

Having been able to rest up since they sealed their place in the finals on Friday, Steve Kerr's team will be heavily fancied to win their first title since 2018.

Golden State were electric against Dallas, with all four of their wins being by a margin of at least nine, and even managing to overcome the outrageously talented Luka Doncic, winning Games 2 and 3 despite 40 or more points in both coming from the Slovenian.

It is no surprise that Stephen Curry is leading the way for the Warriors, averaging 25.9 points per game in the postseason, as well as 6.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

His three-pointer attempts have been a little wayward by his own very high standards, making 60 of 158 attempts in the playoffs, just three more than Klay Thompson (57 from 143 shots), who himself is playing more than just a support role.

Thompson is averaging 19.8 points per game, while Jordan Poole is not far behind with 18.4.

Andrew Wiggins also deserves credit for his contribution, averaging 15.8 and scoring 27 in the Game 3 win against the Mavs at the American Airlines Center, and a good example of how Kerr's team can get at you from anywhere on the court.

 

All that being said, the Celtics have shown themselves to be big-game players during the playoffs, overcoming both the defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks and the number one seeds in the East, the Heat.

Jayson Tatum has invariably been the main man, averaging 27.0 points in the playoffs along with 5.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Like the Warriors, though, Boston are able to spread the responsibility, with Tatum's 26 against the Heat in Game 7 supplemented by 24 each from Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

The Celtics are in the finals for the first time since 2010, and it feels like they have shown the backbone needed to go all the way, even against a supremely talented Warriors side.

Ime Udoka could cement his legacy in Boston, admitting after overcoming the Heat they will need to go one better to be remembered, saying: "We don't hang or celebrate Eastern Conference championships in the Celtics organisation, so we all fall in line and appreciate that standard of excellence."

Udoka against Kerr could be the most interesting contest across the NBA Finals, but all over the court there are intriguing narratives and plenty of top-class basketball to witness.

Whoever rises to the top, they will surely be worthy champions.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors – Draymond Green

The outspoken 32-year-old said on his podcast recently that whatever happens, "the dynasty been stamped" for this Warriors team.

A fourth NBA title in eight years would be quite a convincing way to stamp it further, and Green is likely to play a big role if that is to happen.

In the playoffs, he has been averaging 2.8 turnovers, 8.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game. He racked up nine assists in the clincher against the Mavs, as well as sinking six of seven field goal attempts.

Boston Celtics – Al Horford

After a year each at the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder, Horford came back to Boston to try and finally reach the NBA Finals, and he has done just that.

His ability to stop the opposition and tidy up attacks could well be key against an opposition with danger-men all over the place.

Horford has averaged 8.1 defensive rebounds in the playoffs, including 12 in the Game 7 win against the Heat, and managed three turnovers in three different games during that series.

KEY BATTLE – Will defense win the championship?

Following on from Horford's ability to snatch the ball in defense, these two were both in the top four in the league in the regular season for defensive rebounds, with Golden State second overall with 2,930, while Boston were fourth on 2,915.

One thing the Celtics will need to be aware of is the Warriors' ability to steal, making the fourth most in the league in the regular season (719), while the Celtics were only in 19th place (591).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Celtics will be especially confident based on recent match-ups, having won six of their past seven meetings with the Warriors, including a 110-88 win at Chase Center in their most-recent contest in March.

The Boston Celtics will receive a big boost for their crucial Game 5 clash against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, with Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart returning to the line-up.

Smart missed Game 4 after suffering an awkward ankle injury in Game 3. 

Adding to the Heat's problems is the fact that Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro will not return for Game 5, having not recovered from the groin strain that also kept him out of Game 4.

With each side missing one of their key players, the Celtics were buoyed by the performance of backup point guard Derrick White, who posted a handy stat-line of 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in his first start since missing Game 2 for the birth of his child.

White's performance – especially on the defensive end – will likely cement his position in the rotation above fellow bench guard Payton Pritchard as Smart returns to the equation.

On the other side, it was Victor Oladipo shining off the bench as he tried to fill Herro's shoes, with the former All-Star scoring 18 of the Heat's first 28 points in Game 4, going on to finish with 23 points, six assists and four rebounds. 

He also had a plus/minus of plus four from his 30 minutes, meaning the Celtics won the 18 minutes he was off the floor by 24 points.

Game 6 will head back to Boston on Friday, before a potential Game 7 back in Miami, if required.

The NBA All-Defensive teams were released on Friday, headlined by Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Marcus Smart and reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the First Team.

Joining that pair on the First Team is Phoenix Suns wing and DPOY runner-up Mikal Bridges, the Utah Jazz's three-time DPOY-winning center Rudy Gobert, and the Memphis Grizzlies' league-leading shot-blocker Jaren Jackson Jr.

It is Gobert's sixth consecutive First Team appearance, and Antetokounmpo's fourth consecutive, while also having one Second Team selection in 2017.

Marcus Smart now has three First Team selections after making it in 2019 and 2020, and it was the first of what will likely be numerous defensive honours for both Bridges, aged 25, and Jackson, 22.

The Second Team is made up of Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, Boston Celtics big-man Robert Williams III, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and Philadelphia 76ers defensive specialist Matisse Thybulle.

It is Green's seventh All-Defensive honour since 2015, with four First Teams (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2021) and now three Second Teams (2018, 2019 and now 2022). 

For Holiday, it is his fourth All-Defensive selection overall, with First Teams in 2018 and 2021, and another Second Team in 2019.

Adebayo has now made the Second Team for three consecutive years, and is yet to break into the First Team, while Thybulle made his second straight Second Team, and it was Williams' first award after being drafted in 2018, 23 selections after Memphis' Jackson.

Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka believes his side responded well to being "punked" by the Miami Heat, claiming a 127-102 win in Game 2 of their playoff series on Thursday.

A 39-14 third quarter in the Heat's favour effectively decided Game 1 as the Celtics collapsed on the road, but bounced back, cutting down turnovers and putting four quarters together to split the first two games in Miami.

Marcus Smart and Al Horford's returns to the line-up were critical for the Celtics as they claimed home-court advantage against the Eastern Conference's first seed, but it was a collective effort with 28 assists off 43 made field goals.

Udoka praised his side's mental toughness in responding against a side that came at them in the opening game of the series.

"I think we were upset with how that third quarter went, specifically how we got out-toughed," Udoka said post-match. "Wasn't a lot of schemes or defensive or offensive changes, they just came at us and kind of punked us in that third quarter.

"We looked the other three quarters and how well we had done in winning those quarters, and knew if we just matched their physicality, we could be better. It kind of reminded us of Milwaukee a little bit – the first game – and didn't want to get caught off-guard again.

"I think our guys have bounced back really well all year, especially the second half of the year. Haven't lost two games in a row in a while, and obviously having Marcus and Al back gave us a little boost as well."

Smart was an important figure in his return from a foot injury, filling the stats sheet and finishing with 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and three steals.

Horford provided a little bit of everything meanwhile, ending the game with 10 points, three assists and rebounds as well as a steal and a block.

Udoka commended the returning duo, allowing the team to capitalise on positive aspects from the first game.

"It was great to have the vets back, obviously," he said. "A calming presence there. We didn't get off to our best start, we were a little slow to start but we fought right back into it.

"After, I guess, the first five or six minutes we held them down scoring-wise, but it was a good overall effort. I felt we didn't play as poorly as the last game showed.

"Like I said, we won three quarters and had a very bad third quarter, it was hard to overcome but we saw a lot of positives and areas we could attack."

The Boston Celtics rebounded from a disappointing Game 1 to thrash the Miami Heat 127-102 in Game 2 on Thursday.

With the win, the Celtics have tied the series at 1-1 and snatched home-court advantage, with Game 3 and Game 4 to take place in Boston.

In arguably their best half of the season, the Celtics were nearly flawless to open the game, shooting nine-of-11 from three-point range in the first quarter on the way to putting up two consecutive 35-point frames, leading 70-45 at half-time.

The Heat threatened to make things interesting in the third period as Jimmy Butler piled on 16 of his game-high 29 points but the Celtics had an answer every time, shooting 20-of-40 from three for the contest, including 17-of-29 from the five Boston players to play more than 30 minutes each.

Jayson Tatum finished with a team-high 27 points on eight-of-13 shooting with five rebounds and five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart had 24 on eight-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.

Jaylen Brown chipped in an efficient 24 points on nine-of-17 shooting, and Grant Williams was excellent once again for the Celtics with 19 points off the bench, shooting five-of-seven from the field, and was +37 in plus/minus over his 32 minutes. Only Payton Pritchard finished with a higher plus/minus, finishing plus +39 in his 23 minutes, scoring 10 points with two assists in Derrick White's absence.

After dominating the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, averaging over 20 points per game on 60 per cent shooting, Bam Adebayo had his second straight disappointing showing. After posting 10 points and four rebounds in Game 1, he followed it up with just six points and nine rebounds. 

Adebayo is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in the playoffs thus far, significantly down from his season averages of 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The Boston Celtics have lost Al Horford and Marcus Smart for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.

Horford will miss out after entering the NBA's health and safety protocols, while Smart has a right mid-foot sprain, the team said.

Losing center Horford and point guard Smart just hours before the series opener is a major blow to head coach Ime Udoka.

It remains to be seen how long the pair must stay sidelined. Both played significant roles in Boston edging out the Milwaukee Bucks in a semi-final series that went to a Game 7 decider on Sunday.

Speaking before the twin absences were announced, Udoka said the Celtics would look to make a strong start against Miami, despite lacking time for a breather between series.

Udoka said: "We didn’t get a ton of rest, as opposed to Miami, who had a few days off. But we're riding some momentum and staying sharp and there's benefits to that as well. Miami got [four] days off, but as far as what we did against Milwaukee, some carryover could be good."

Boston are not alone in being without key personnel. It had previously been announced Miami guard Kyle Lowry will miss Game 1 with a hamstring injury.

Marcus Smart is questionable for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a mid-foot sprain.

Head coach Ime Udoka revealed the Boston Celtics star suffered the injury in their blowout win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of their semi-finals series.

Smart is, therefore, a doubt to face the Miami Heat in the series opener in south Florida as the Celtics aim to steal the initiative against the East's one seed.

The 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year, Smart has arguably not had the impact he would have desired so far in the postseason.

However, he played an instrumental role in forcing Game 7 against the Bucks, scoring 21 points and recording seven assists and five rebounds to help the Celtics set up a decider.

Smart had 10 assists and seven rebounds in Game 7, finishing with a plus-minus of plus-18 that was second only to Grant Williams (+25) as the Celtics routed the Bucks 109-81.

Perhaps his biggest influence in this postseason has been on the glass.

During the playoffs, opponents are averaging 43.6 rebounds per 100 possessions when Smart is on the court and 46.7 when he is off the court.

Similarly, opponents have averaged 13.5 second-chance points per 100 possessions with Smart out there compared to 15.3 against Celtics line-ups not including him in the playoffs.

The Celtics also do a better job of stealing the ball with Smart on court (7.3 per game) compared to when he is on the bench (6.2).

Boston will hope to have him out there to prevent Jimmy Butler and Miami from getting hot, and the Celtics will have center Rob Williams, who has not featured in any of the last four games due to a bone bruise, available with no minutes restriction.

Jayson Tatum said forcing a Game 7 in Boston "means everything" after he scored a game-high 46 points to carry his Boston Celtics to a 108-95 win in Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tatum shot 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long-range for his 46, while Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 44 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to put up 40-and-20 in a playoff game.

Unlike Antetokounmpo, Tatum had strong support from his teammates, with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combining for an efficient 43 points, while Al Horford collected team-highs in rebounds (10) and blocks (four).

After a disappointing Game 5 showing at home, Tatum told reporters post-game that the timid performance was lingering in their memories, determined not to make the same mistakes.

"[The Game 5 comeback] was in the back of our mind… it's something we talked about," he said.

"We felt they beat us on 'winning' plays – hustle plays, 50-50 balls – they were tougher than us in the fourth quarter of Game 5. 

"I think just how much it stung – losing like that. Everyone had a bad taste in their mouth.

"That was in the back of my mind, it was in the back of everyone's minds. Our season was on the line, we knew that, and we had to dig deep and give everything we had. 

"[But] we were upbeat, we weren't defeated – knowing we still had an opportunity to save our season by coming in here and getting a win, and we believed that, we truly did. We believed in each other, and I think that showed tonight."

Touching on the Bucks and what makes them so good, Tatum emphasised their unity and cohesiveness, with everyone buying into their roles.

"They're a great team," he said. "I think everyone over there knows their role, and everyone is a star in their role – they compliment each other really well. 

"They're well-coached, they run great sets, and they're not going to beat themselves. They've done it before, and we know that, so coming into the series we knew it wasn't going to be easy – by no means – whoever wins was going to have to earn it.

"I was excited to play today – Game 6, you know, this is a big moment. For all of us, for myself and the team and how we would respond. 

"Losing Game 5 was going to make us or break us, and I think we showed a lot of toughness and growth coming out here and getting a win on the road and giving ourselves a chance."

Tatum was all smiles at the thought of Game 7 heading back to Boston, saying this is what competitors dream of.

"It means everything," he said. "It's the best atmosphere in the NBA, and Game 7s are the biggest and best games.

"I'm looking forward to it, truly… this is it, do or die. 

"This is going to be fun – it's supposed to be fun, it's basketball."

Giannis Antetokounmpo showed why many feel he is the best player in the world in the Milwaukee Bucks' 110-107 comeback win away against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

The two-time MVP and reigning NBA Finals MVP was a dominant force in Boston, finishing with 40 points on 16-of-27 shooting, keeping his side in touch as they struggled in the first half, and making clutch plays down the stretch to help the Bucks win the fourth quarter 33-21.

It was a bright start in the first quarter for Milwaukee, with Antetokounmpo only scoring four points as role players hit shots and Jrue Holiday had nine early, but their star had to take over in the second quarter as the offense stalled.

Antetokounmpo had 15 of the Bucks' 19 second-quarter points as the Celtics threatened to pull away, leading 54-42 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

Both teams were clicking in the third quarter, but every time the Bucks closed the gap, the Celtics had an answer in front of their raucous home fans, with an Antetokounmpo pull-up three to end the quarter needed to trim the margin to an 86-77 Boston lead.

With 10 minutes to play, the Celtics led 93-79 – and then everything began to fall apart.

The once-fluid Boston offense devolved into a stagnant, turn-taking, isolation-heavy mess, consistently not even beginning to attack until there was less than 10 seconds on the shot clock, often resulting in tough, contested, long two-point jump shots by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Trailing 105-99 with two minutes remaining, Antetokounmpo drained a clutch three-pointer to make it a one-possession game, before Holiday tied it up via a long-ball with 42 seconds on the clock.

Two Tatum free throws put the Celtics back ahead, before Antetokounmpo earned two shots himself. 

He scored the first – with blood dripping down his face from a cut above his right eye – and missed the second, but Bobby Portis was able to come up with the offensive rebound in a scramble and put it back in to take a 108-107 lead with 11 seconds remaining.

The last 11 seconds was a chance for Holiday to make a statement. Widely considered the best defensive guard in the game, Holiday blocked the shot of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, snatching the ball out of the air in the process to win possession.

After two successful free throws from Pat Connaughton, Holiday put the finishing touches on the game by picking Smart's pocket once again as he tried to bring the ball up for one last attempt at tying it, taking a 3-2 series lead, with Game 6 headed back to Milwaukee.

In NBA playoff history, when a series has been tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has won the series 82.2 per cent of the time (180-39).

If the Celtics can win Game 6, the Game 7 decider will head back to Boston.

 

No Ja, no worries for Memphis Grizzlies at home

With their season on the line, the Memphis Grizzlies dominated the Golden State Warriors 134-95 as nine players scored at least nine points each with star Ja Morant out injured.

The Grizzlies were expected to be competitive without Morant – going 20-5 in the 25 games he missed in the regular season – but they were far more than that, opening up a 119-67 lead at three-quarter time.

Illustrating the one-sided nature of the contest, the Warriors committed 22 turnovers compared to 10 for the Grizzlies, and grabbed just four offensive rebounds while the home side snatched down 18.

Overall, this meant the Grizzlies attempted 19 more field goals (47-of-99 compared to 36-of-80), as well as 17 more free throws (22-of-30 to nine-of-13).

Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones and Jaren Jackson Jr top-scored for Memphis with 21 points each, and all five Grizzlies starters finished with a plus/minus of at least plus 32.

Klay Thompson top-scored for the Warriors with 19 points on an efficient seven-of-12 shooting, but he had the worst plus/minus in the game at minus 45.

Game 6 will head back to Memphis, and if the Grizzlies can force a Game 7, it will be played in Golden State

Al Horford's career-best playoff haul of 30 points drew acclaim as the Boston Celtics secured Game 4 with a superb fourth quarter in a 116-108 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 35-year-old veteran and five-time NBA All-Star delivered 11-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists as Boston levelled the NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series at 2-2.

Horford rose to the occasion after a third-quarter dunk from Giannis Antetokounmpo left him smarting, and steered the visitors to a crucial win at the Fiserv Forum in Wisconsin.

The center returned the favour on his opponent in the final act, with both handed technical fouls, but it was the sheer energy of the Dominican that captured the attention.

"That was a hell of a play," team-mate Jayson Tatum said. "Especially anytime Al turns back the clock and he looks like his old self, it gets everybody off the bench.

"Al plays with so much passion. When Al is playing with passion like that, everybody else has to follow."

Marcus Smart also hailed Horford, in particular for his dunk, adding: "It's a big-time play in a big-time moment.

"It's a physical game. We were on the other end a couple of times, so it felt kind of good to have that one."

Horford himself admitted the Celtics were driven to victory by a desire to close out the game after the Bucks held on for a 103-101 win on Saturday in Game 3.

"We felt that at the end of Game 3 that we were in a position to win the game, and we didn't," he added. "I was just really locked in.

"I understood the moment and what we needed to do as a group. Just come out and we were gonna do whatever it took tonight. It was one of those types of nights."

The two sides return to Massachusetts now, and will contest Game 5 at the TD Garden on Wednesday.

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