Jayson Tatum got up twice in three minutes with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo on him and hit his two shots – one a discolored jumper from the baseline and the other a 3-point green light.
Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, missed a wide open effort several yards from the hoop and left the game’s decisive free kick short in the Celtics’ spectacular 122-121 win over the Bucks to start their 2020-21 season.
What Tatum is hoping for will be the first campaign in which he makes a compelling MVP case that got off to a scorching start against the incumbent. And what Boston is hoping for is a year of breakthroughs in the Eastern Conference started with a positive result against a possible playoff nemesis.
Tatum finished with 30 points and seven rebounds. Antetokounmpo posted a line of 35 points and 13 rebounds, but also committed seven turnovers.
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The first significant late streak involving Tatum and Antetokounmpo came with about three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Antetokounmpo was woven around an opening pick, ball in hand, to create an easy pitching opportunity. He missed it. At the other end, Tatum pierced a sweater in his face.
Tatum then gave Boston the lead with a 3-point shot from the glass 0.4 seconds from time. Again, Antetokounmpo was assigned to the attacker and was unable to stop him.
After a questionable foul gave the Bucks a chance to send the game into overtime, Antetokounmpo missed what would have been a tie free throw.
The Bucks, starring exciting newcomer Jrue Holiday, will have to wait a week for their next game with an Eastern contender. They will play the Heat in consecutive games on Tuesday and Wednesday next.