The Boston Celtics could see the finish line. A 3-2 lead was right there if they could just keep their wits about them and stay on their feet. And then one stumble. Then another, and another, and suddenly, improbably, the Milwaukee Bucks nipped them at the tape to steal control of the East semifinal series.
“We gave it away,” Jaylen Brown said. “That’s how we lost it.”
Now, the action shifts back to Milwaukee for Game 6 and one of the most significant moments of the Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown era.
The duo, which has been together since Tatum arrived in the 2017 draft, has already made a number of deep playoff runs together. There was the surprise trip to the Eastern Conference finals in Tatum’s rookie season in 2018, where they ultimately lost Game 7 at home to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They got back to the ECF in 2020 in the bubble, but were not fully healthy and couldn’t take care of business against the Miami Heat in a strange environment.
Both of those defeats were frustrating, but they felt like positive stepping stones for a young team at the time. The reins hadn’t fully been handed to Tatum and Brown, and in neither season were the Celtics likely to actually win the title if they broke through to the Finals — certainly not in 2018 against the Golden State Warriors at the height of their powers, and probably not against the LeBron and Anthony Davis-led Lakers in 2020.
None of those caveats apply this time around. This is well and truly Tatum and Brown’s team, and it would be a massive disappointment if they bow out in the second round, even to the defending champions. The title race is wide open this season, and