Jayson Tatum Drops 34 as Celtics Snap Giannis, Bucks' 8-Game Winning Streak

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIIMarch 27, 2021

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum prepares to shoot against Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 26, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Aaron Gash/Associated Press

Two nights after failing to get a buzzer-beater to fall, the Boston Celtics knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks 122-114 at Fiserv Forum and halted an eight-game winning streak for the Central Division leaders.

It's just the third victory in the last nine games for the Celtics (22-23), who played a bit short-handed on Friday, with Daniel Theis on his way to the Chicago Bulls and Evan Fournier awaiting his Boston debut following Thursday's trade deadline. 

That gave big man Robert Williams III an opportunity in the starting lineup as head coach Brad Stevens tinkered with the rotation. 

The victory gave the season series to Boston. That would count as a tiebreaker should the C's finish the regular season with the same record as the Bucks (29-15).


Notable Performers

Jayson Tatum, SF, Boston Celtics: 34 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds

Marcus Smart, PG, Boston Celtics: 23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists

Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks: 16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists

Khris Middleton, SF, Milwaukee Bucks: 19 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds 


Williams Makes Case for Starting

Around the time it became clear Williams would make his first start for Boston this season, reports emerged that the C's met with free agent Andre Drummond.

"Boston would like to add him to fill their hole in the middle," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Countdown. "Boston has a real shot at him."

After seeing Williams dominate the Milwaukee Bucks, it's worth wondering if he should be given a bigger opportunity.

Williams was electric in 27 minutes, posting seven points, nine rebounds, six assists, five blocks and two steals without committing a turnover. He made three of his five field goals, including a few thundering dunks that noticeably got his teammates fired up. 

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Robert Williams III is the first Celtics player over the last 25 seasons with 5 assists and 4 blocks in a half. Tonight was his first start of the season. https://t.co/3ULlJnGQis

Boston Celtics @celtics

TIMELORD 😤🔨 https://t.co/OMKMvR8Pyg

Whether or not Williams—a third-year pro out of Texas A&M—is the Celtics' answer at center remains to be seen. But he showed he has all the tools for head coach Brad Stevens to at least pencil him in as a possible long-term solution up front. 

Building a 21-point lead also allowed Stevens to try out a few more options in the frontcourt. The recently acquired Moritz Wagner posted three points and five rebounds over 10 minutes in his Boston debut. Tacko Fall added another highlight to his reel by finishing off an alley-oop.

Yet few of the Celtics' bigs showed as much promise as Williams, who may see his minutes tick up whether Boston lands Drummond or not.  

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Tonight is Jayson Tatum's 27th career 30-point game, which breaks a tie with Antoine Walker for 4th-most by a Celtics player within his first 4 seasons. Only Paul Pierce (65), Larry Bird (53) and Jo Jo White (28) have more. https://t.co/ijXIgNY8R6


Jayson Tatum picking up where he left off in the first half! 🔥 26 PTS | 11 in 3rd Q 📺: ESPN https://t.co/Om472Wcwqu


Bucks' Winning Streak Finally Snapped

The Celtics did what the Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers could not over the last few weeks and took down a Milwaukee team that had been playing at its best.

Boston can thank some truly putrid shooting for that. 

Milwaukee shot 44.4 percent from the floor, but it was a 6-of-12 night from Antetokounmpo, a 2-of-10 performance from Brook Lopez and 5-of-15 shooting from Donte DiVincenzo that doomed the Bucks. The lack of shooting extended to the bench, with reserve sniper Pat Connaughton going 1-of-7. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

GIANNIS HAMMER ON TACKO 😳 (via @Bucks) https://t.co/nr7SBK0rK5

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

Giannis lets it fly!! 12 third-quarter points for Giannis. https://t.co/3eL18yqe5c

Maybe Milwaukee was due for a down night, or maybe some trade candidates being able to exhale led to the letdown. But it would be unexpected for that type of performance to continue. 

After battling to a 60-55 halftime deficit for the Bucks, Boston came out firing in the third quarter, outscoring Milwaukee 43-34 while drilling nine of 14 three-pointers. Antetokounmpo scored 12 of his 16 points in the third quarter but couldn't get himself in enough of a rhythm to counter the Celtics attack.

Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer, seeming to sense the game was out of reach, mostly played his reserves in the fourth quarter.   


What's Next?

The Celtics travel to Oklahoma City for a Saturday matchup with the Thunder at 9 p.m. ET. They'll take the floor without Kemba Walker, who has been sitting out the second game of back-to-backs because of his knee. The Bucks will host the New York Knicks at Fiserv Forum on Saturday at 8 p.m. to finish their own back-to-back.