The atmosphere inside Fiserv Forum and outside in the Deer District in the hours leading up to Friday night’s game six between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics was festive. Chants of “Bucks in six” could be heard from all corners of downtown Milwaukee.
And then the game began.
Milwaukee, as they have been at times throughout this series, were stymied by both Boston’s defense and also their own poor play, aside from two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, losing 108-95 to force a decisive game seven at TD Garden on Sunday.
Antetokounmpo scored 44 points (14-30 FG, 2-3 on three pointers) and pulled down 20 rebounds but got very little help offensively from the rest of his team, still trying to find its identity without three-time NBA All Star Khris Middleton available because of a sprained knee.
Jrue Holiday, Wednesday night’s defensive star, struggled once again from the field, shooting 7-17 (3-10 from the three-point line) in scoring 17 points. Beyond Antetokounmpo and Holiday, the rest of the Bucks combined for just 34 points total, 14 of them from reserve Pat Connaughton (6-8 FG, 2-3 on three pointers).
Guard Grayson Allen particularly struggled, shooting 1-7 overall and 0-4 from the three-point line. His +/- was a game low -29 in 22 minutes of play.
Conversely, Jayson Tatum was nearly unstoppable for Boston all game long, and particularly down the stretch. Of Tatum’s game-high 46 points, 16 of them came in the final frame, shooting a blistering 5-7 (2-3 on three pointers) from the field in the final 12 minutes.
"I think you've got to roll him,” Milwaukee guard Jrue Holiday told reporters after the game when asked how to defend against Tatum. “He made some tough one-on-one plays. He had it going today. At the end of the day, he's a great player. A great offensive player."
"Just make him a little more uncomfortable,” Connaughton added, saying they also must fight better through screens.
Now it’s on to Boston for the decisive contest on Sunday. The Bucks have been in this position before, having won game seven in the Eastern Conference Semifinals a year ago in Brooklyn.
"I think it gives us confidence that we've done it on the road,” Holiday added. “We've been here before. We know what it's like."