Giannis Drops 36 as Bucks Rally Past Jayson Tatum, Celtics for Christmas Day Win

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVDecember 25, 2021

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts after chipping his tooth on a play against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jon Durr)
AP Photo/Jon Durr

The return of Giannis Antetokounmpo from the NBA's health and safety protocols was one of the main storylines for the NBA's slate of Christmas Day games, even if Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum did everything they could to play the Grinch.

Antetokounmpo wasn't about to see Milwaukee's cheer disrupted, however. He went off for 36 points, helping the Bucks secure a 117-113 win over the Boston Celtics.

Brown and Tatum were excellent, combining for 50 points. Not even a chipped tooth Brown suffered during the game slowed him down:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Jaylen Brown got a chipped tooth after this apparent elbow from Tatum 😬 <a href="https://t.co/QHflLkbh1E">pic.twitter.com/QHflLkbh1E</a>

But Milwaukee's 43-point third quarter changed a contest that didn't feature much in the way of defense and helped come all the way back from what was a 19-point deficit. The Celtics answered every Milwaukee punch with one of their own until late in the fourth quarter, as the Bucks didn't hold a lead until just 30 seconds remained. 

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

You know it ends well when Jrue gets a steal. <br><br>WES FOR THREE!! <a href="https://t.co/SJoXY1XSfM">pic.twitter.com/SJoXY1XSfM</a>

The Celtics went scoreless in the game's final minute and 17 seconds and didn't make a bucket in the final three minutes and 21 seconds.

Bill Simmons @BillSimmons

If you missed out on the 2021-22 Celtics season you just got to relive it in a condensed 150-minute Christmas special.

It was business as usual for Antetokounmpo in his first appearance since Dec. 13 after missing five straight games, handing the Bucks (22-13) their third straight win.

He wasn't the only Milwaukee player making a return—Donte DiVincenzo made his first appearance of the season on Saturday.


Donte DiVincenzo with his first bucket of the season! <br><br>From down 19...<a href="https://twitter.com/Bucks?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Bucks</a> down 2 on ABC. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAXmas?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBAXmas</a> <a href="https://t.co/uWNJ6FOdaQ">pic.twitter.com/uWNJ6FOdaQ</a>

Boston (16-17) moved back under .500, meanwhile, in another blow for a team trying to right the ship during an up-and-down season. 

Key Stats

Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL: 36 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two blocks

Khris Middleton, MIL: 17 points, seven assists

Jrue Holiday, MIL: 17 points, five rebounds

Jaylen Brown, BOS: 25 points

Jayson Tatum, BOS: 25 points, nine rebounds

Marcus Smart, BOS: 19 points, seven assists

You Didn't Actually Think Giannis Would Be Rusty, Did You?

The Greek Freak doesn't do rust. He does this, though:


Giannis STUFFS it to end the 3Q 🧦<br><br>17 in the quarter for Giannis...4-point game entering the 4th on ABC. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAXmas?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBAXmas</a> <a href="https://t.co/X503Buz0hk">pic.twitter.com/X503Buz0hk</a>

Oh, and this:

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

This jumper is so pretty it should be on a Christmas card. 🤩 <a href="https://t.co/4KvOtsqaFM">pic.twitter.com/4KvOtsqaFM</a>

He's just built different. 

The Bucks were a manageable 3-2 without him during this recent stretch. But on Saturday, everyone was reminded of Antetokounmpo's value.

Not that anyone needed the reminder.

Peyton Pritchard Continues To Shine Off The Bench

Brown and Tatum may have led the way, but Boston needed Pritchard's 16 points and five assists off the bench. The second-year man is emerging as an important role player for the Celtics, with double-digit points in three of his past four outings.

Jay King @ByJayKing

Payton Pritchard has just been a different dude lately.

Tony Jones @Tjonesonthenba

Pritchard is the best point guard fit on the Celtics roster with Tatum and Brown<br><br>Defends, moves it, shoots it, doesn’t need it

Steve Bulpett @SteveBHoop

Are you getting the feeling that every made 3 by Payton Pritchard moves Dennis Schröder one step closer to the door?<br><br>(And that's in addition to Pritchard's ball movement and aggressive defense.)

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

Pritchard really said "Screw it, I'm shooting" in the Portland game and it changed his whole season.

For a Celtics team with Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson, C.J. Miles, Justin Jackson, Sam Hauser, Grant Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Enes Freedom and Bruno Fernando all in the health and safety protocols, Pritchard's recent performances have been huge. It was telling that he found himself getting minutes deep into the fourth quarter.

Even when the Celtics have a fuller complement of players, it's going to be hard to keep Pritchard out of the rotation. 

What's Next?

The Celtics will look to rebound when they travel to Minnesota to face the Timberwolves at 8 p.m. ET on Monday. The Bucks travel to Orlando to face the Magic on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.