Jason Tatum saved the Boston Celtics’ season with 46 points.

Jason Tatum saved the Boston Celtics’ season with 46 points.

There was a time when the Boston Celtics were in danger of falling into a mound of dust. They had a losing record at the end of January. He was fighting a series of injuries. There were questions about whether Jayson Tatum could stay with Jaylen Brown – was it time for Team Brown to consider a trade? – With the inevitable criticism of Ime Udoka in his first season as coach.

It’s a familiar date in this final phase of the season, but it’s worth repeating, especially now. Why? Because on Friday night, in the wake of a late-night meltdown, the Celtics were facing defeat in Milwaukee. Outside of his cocoon, as he prepared himself for Game 6, questions swirled: Did he miss his chance? Can they somehow make a commitment to extend their Eastern Conference semi-final series with a box?

The Celtics, though, embrace difficulties. Maybe they bet to do their best when everyone else thinks they’re gone, a sand castle is about to sink into the ocean. Down? Out? His sand castle is apparently reinforced with steel beams, and he proved just that with his 108-95 victory.

“It was a great moment for all of us,” Tatum said minutes after collecting the best individual performances of the NBA post season. “I think we showed a lot of toughness and progress.”

There was no doubt that Tatum also helped in the series in three games with 46 points and 9 rebounds. In the process, he somehow overpowered Giannis Antetokounmpo, who tried to drag the box across the finish line with 44 points, 20 rebounds and 6 assists. It was a series that deserved the seventh game, and was delivered by the Celtics. Game 7 is in Boston on Sunday afternoon.

“I believe in everyone in this locker room,” said Tatum. “We have what it takes.”

The Miami Heat, who knocked the Philadelphia 76ers out of the postseason on Thursday, are awaiting a winner in the Eastern Conference final, with the opening game of the series set for Tuesday. Hat must have been happy to see the Celtics extend their series with the box: now is the time for these teams to bow to each other.

“You’re going to have two juggernauts. We’re killing each other,” said Marcus Smart of Celtics.

The Celtics are thankful to be in that position after falling into the fourth quarter of Game 5 on Wednesday. That game could have upset him after blowing up a 14-point lead. Smart, in particular, was annoyed with himself for making some late-game gossip. He remembered going straight to the team’s practice facility after the game, and then tossing and going through two sleepless nights before Game 6.

“I feel like I disappointed my team,” he said.

The good news is that the Celtics played well in Game 5 – until they stopped playing well, Adoka said. The winning ingredients were there. And they were on display again in Game 6, this time for a full 48 minutes.

Smart was awesome, ending with 21 points and 7 assists without any turnover. Brown scored 22 points. And consider the partnership of Derek White, a former Division II player and commercial deadline acquisition that was in full swing in the last three minutes of the first half. He followed 3 pointers with a short jumper. He fired a charging foul on Antetokounmpo. And then he made two free throws, giving the Celtics a 10-point lead at halftime.

But the fact is that Smart, Brown and White were part of the supporting cast. The stage belonged to Tatum.

“He went into second mode,” Smart said. “We saw it in his eyes.”

From the start of the playoffs, when he named the Celtics first round series with the Nets in a game-winning sequence, Tatum sought to elevate his stature as one of the league’s most talented players. Started a business.

No, he has not been safe from occasional clashes. After losing to Milwaukee in Game 3, he hit 4 of 19 shots off the field and missed all six of his three-point attempts. But in the three games since then, he has averaged 36.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists, shooting 47% off the field.

On Friday, Tatum played a great game from all sides. He did more than score. Coming out of the timeout in the third quarter, he snatched Bobby Ports from the box in the post, giving Brown an order and a 17-point lead.

Tatum was also able to compete with everything that Antetokounmpo Celtics could throw, which was too much. The Bucks were threatening in the fourth quarter when Antetokounmpo sank the 3-pointer. Tatum went on to score the Celtics’ next 10 points, flicking a deep 3-pointer over the box’s belly canton.

“Obviously, I know when it’s going to happen,” Tatum said. “You feel that rhythm.”

Of course, no one is counting Milwaukee. Bucks is a defending champion, and AntitoCompo has the ability to perform interlinear feats. But without the presence of Chris Middleton, an All-Star forward who has been sidelined due to a sprain in his left knee, Antetokounmpo had to do more Antetokounmpo work than usual.

On Sunday, he clearly needs more help from his teammates, especially against the likes of Tatum, who is a star in his own right.

Now, after a season of survival and growth, the Celtics see nothing but opportunity ahead of them.

“We still have a chance,” Adoka said, “to make it a better story.”

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