Tatum barely adjusted to Antetokounmpo’s sudden emergence, angling only a bit to the correct as he completed a poster dunk over a two-handed contesting effort by the Milwaukee Bucks huge man. The power of the second-quarter slam led Tatum to hold on the rim along with his proper hand, swirling for emphasis as Antetokounmpo ducked out of the way in which.
“I used to be going to assault the rim,” Tatum mentioned throughout a postgame interview. “When you go in to put it up, he’s going to ship it to the car parking zone.”
The Celtics rode the momentum from Tatum’s mano-a-mano triumph to defeat the Bucks in a 139-118 runaway Sunday at TD Backyard, highlighting a five-game vacation slate that was crammed with standout performances by stars and a number of other spectacular comebacks.
Tatum posted a game-high 41 factors, together with a 20-point burst within the third quarter that put Boston comfortably in command, to go together with seven rebounds and 5 assists. The three-time all-star shot 14 for 22 from the sphere, 3 for 7 from deep and 10 for 10 from the free throw line, settling right into a groove that recalled his greatest performances from Boston’s second-round collection victory over Milwaukee in Could.
As Tatum made it look straightforward, Antetokounmpo couldn’t discover the contact on his jumper and struggled to search out room to work in opposition to Boston’s inside protection, capturing 9 for 22 on the evening. The 2-time MVP completed with 27 factors, 9 rebounds and three assists because the Bucks had been outshot and outworked by their convention rivals.
Tensions flared within the closing minutes regardless of Boston’s huge lead as Antetokounmpo ended a irritating evening by choosing up a technical foul for shoving Celtics guard Jaylen Brown within the again. Remarkably, Milwaukee was outscored by 27 factors in Antetokounmpo’s 35 minutes.
“We restricted him, nevertheless it’s loopy, [Antetokounmpo] had 27,” Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla mentioned. “We’re lucky to have nice matchups for him. We’re lucky to have the flexibility to throw some totally different guys at him, and I believed we had been disciplined in our execution.”
Milwaukee once more felt the absence of ahead Khris Middleton, who has missed the previous 5 video games with knee soreness. Middleton additionally missed final yr’s second-round collection, which robbed the 2021 NBA champions of one among their greatest late-game closers and perimeter defenders. With out their three-time all-star, the Bucks had no reply for Brown, who added 29 factors, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, or the Celtics’ top-ranked offense, which hit 19 three-pointers.
Tatum had a signature efficiency, however he was hardly the one star to rise to the event. With Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry sidelined by a shoulder harm and Kevin Durant watching from residence as a result of his Brooklyn Nets didn’t make the reduce for the Christmas quintuple-header, Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic and Ja Morant helped fill the void.
Sunday’s largest upset got here at Chase Heart in San Francisco, the place the Curry-less Warriors turned lively protection and 32 factors from Jordan Poole right into a 123-109 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Klay Thompson added 24 factors and acquired one of many Warriors’ six technical fouls for celebrating with a bit an excessive amount of gusto whereas crouching over Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks within the closing minutes.
“I don’t assume it warranted a technical, however I forgot concerning the taunting rule,” Thompson mentioned. “It’s all the time enjoyable to speak trash. We’ve been doing that since we had been in center faculty. It was a superb evening to ship a message since you by no means know who you’re going to see down the highway.”
Golden State, which has struggled badly since Curry was sidelined, raised its power degree and focus for the playoff rematch. Poole did somewhat little bit of the whole lot in offsetting a giant evening from Morant, drilling a deep step-back three-pointer, leaking out in transition for a dunk and getting ejected for receiving his second technical foul with about 9 minutes remaining.
“[The Grizzlies] are the younger, up-and-coming workforce,” mentioned Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who additionally acquired a technical foul. “There’s been plenty of chirping backwards and forwards. It’s all wholesome, and it’s great things. It’s the spirit of competitors. Final yr’s collection was actually contested and heated. We’re attempting to maintain it rolling, and so they’re attempting to knock us off the mountain.”
The Grizzlies, who entered the day because the Western Convention’s No. 2 seed, couldn’t capitalize on Poole’s early exit as a result of they had been unable to muster any offense except for Morant’s electrical particular person effort. The all-star guard, who had campaigned for Memphis to get its first Christmas look, completed with 36 factors, seven rebounds and eight assists in an entertaining however futile one-man present.
After three quarters, Morant was Memphis’s solely participant in double figures; Jaren Jackson Jr. spent many of the evening in foul bother, and guards Desmond Bane and Brooks by no means discovered their rhythm from exterior. Morant drew gasps with an early left-handed layup and an audacious dunk try over Anthony Lamb that hardly missed, however he compelled the difficulty along with his teammates struggling, capturing 2 for 10 from past the arc and committing six turnovers. The Grizzlies shot 9 for 39 from deep.
Within the day’s opener, the Philadelphia 76ers scored a 119-112 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Sq. Backyard because of 35 factors and eight rebounds from Embiid and 29 factors and 13 assists from James Harden. After a sleepy begin, Philadelphia’s stars took management within the second half because the Knicks’ offense sputtered down the stretch. Collectively, Embiid and Harden tried 26 free throws in opposition to the overwhelmed New York protection.
“Our fouls, they damage us,” Knicks Coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned. “Embiid is a good participant. Harden is a good participant. When you’re not disciplined, that’s going to harm you, and it did.”
It was a galvanizing victory for Philadelphia, one which led Embiid to soak in a fourth-quarter ovation from scattered 76ers followers in Manhattan. Along with Embiid’s punishing play inside and Harden’s managed orchestration, the 76ers obtained 9 mixed three-pointers from De’Anthony Melton and Georges Niang.
Melton, acquired in a summer time commerce with the Grizzlies, has introduced an important defensive depth to Philadelphia’s backcourt as a stand-in starter for the injured Tyrese Maxey. The 76ers have received eight straight to climb into the Jap Convention’s fifth seed.
Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who completed with 23 factors and 11 assists, left the competition within the fourth quarter with an obvious hip harm. Even earlier than he departed, New York had stalled out, conceding a 24-9 run to start out the fourth. After operating off eight straight wins, the Knicks have misplaced three straight.
Sunday’s second contest noticed Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks observe the 76ers’ lead by launching a large second-half comeback in opposition to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Although James led all scorers with 38 factors in his record-setting seventeenth look on Christmas, the Mavericks had 51 factors within the third quarter to cruise to a 124-115 residence victory.
Doncic eased into the sport however completed with 32 factors, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, draining a nook three-pointer late within the fourth quarter to slam the door. Dallas hit 18 three-pointers, doubling Los Angeles’s whole.
“We talked about being able to provoke, maintain and end with power, effort and competitiveness,” Lakers Coach Darvin Ham mentioned. “We left it within the locker room at halftime. Giving up a 51-point quarter is unacceptable — utterly unacceptable.”
Dallas used the vacation to have fun franchise legend Dirk Nowitzki by unveiling a bronze statue exterior American Airways Heart throughout a pregame ceremony. Naturally, the 44-year-old Nowitzki, who’s eligible for Naismith Basketball Corridor of Fame induction in 2023, was depicted capturing one among his patented one-legged fadeaway jumpers.
“It says there on the aspect, beneath my title on the bottom, it’s 21 letters for 21 years,” Nowitzki mentioned. “I believe it sums up my profession right here for the Dallas Mavericks completely. It says, ‘Loyalty by no means fades away.’ ”
The Lakers, who misplaced Anthony Davis to a foot harm this month, fell for the fourth straight time with out their all-star huge man. To make issues worse, Los Angeles has 4 video games remaining on a five-game journey as Davis stays out indefinitely, elevating the likelihood that James and firm will miss the playoffs for a second straight yr.