Jayson Tatum wasn’t a certified superstar prior to his sensational performance in the No. 2 Celtics’ 4-0 series sweep of the No. 7 Brooklyn Nets in their opening round Eastern Conference playoff series; there is little doubt today that he is one of the NBA’s best players. The 24-year-old Tatum averaged 29.5 points and 7.3 assists while guarding with the intensity and execution of an elite special forces operative in aiding in the disruption of the Nets’ offensive attack.
No rational basketball fan was uncertain of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo’s standing after his historically great play in last year’s finals versus the Phoenix Suns placed him among the game’s legends. The 27-year-old two-time league MVP added a finals MVP to his gleaming resume in carrying the Bucks to a 4-2 series win, equaling Bob Petit (1958) as the only players to ever score 50 points in a championship close out game. Antetokounmpo’s remarkable stat line in Game 6 was 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.
Now he and Tatum are set for what could be an epic Eastern Conference semifinals series. The No. 3 seed Bucks were up 3-1 versus the No. 6 seed Chicago Bulls when they met last night in Milwaukee with the Bucks looking to end the series and prepare for a much more difficult challenge of facing the formidable Celtics. With the Bulls All-Star guard Zach Levine out last night due to being placed in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the Bucks were favorably positioned to send the Bulls on a long break.
Heading into the game, Antetokounmpo had carried over his regular season MVP-caliber play, in which he averaged 29.9 points (second in the NBA) 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, by posting numbers of 27.5, 14.5 and 1.8 blocks in four games against the Bulls.
In the other Eastern Conference series, the No. 4 Philadelphia 76ers are up 3-2 over the No. 5 seed Toronto Raptors with Game 6 in Toronto tonight. The No. 1 seed Miami Heat eliminated the No. 8 seed Atlanta Hawks 4-1 with a 97-94 victory at home on Tuesday. In the West, the No. 3 seed Golden State Warriors held a 3-1 advantage over the No. 6 seed Denver Nuggets and sought to knock them out of the playoffs last night at home.
The top seed Phoenix Suns lead the No. 8 seed New Orleans Pelicans 3-2 in their gripping best-of-seven series as they will meet in Game 6 tonight in New Orleans. Game 6 of the No. 4 seed Dallas Mavericks and No. 5 seed Utah Jazz pairing is tonight in Utah with the Mavericks leading 3-2. The No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies had their hands full with the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are up 3-2 with Game 6 tomorrow in Minnesota.