Celtics

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics show a promising crunch-time shift in opener

(Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

It’s been three months since the Celtics' title hopes came to an end in the Eastern Conference Finals in the Orlando bubble but it almost felt like we were seeing another re-run of Boston's routine collapses against the Heat in the early stages of the fourth quarter on Wednesday night. Some of the names and the opponent (Milwaukee) had changed, but the key players remained the same for the C's. Boston saw a 17-point lead vanish in just nine minutes as the Bucks opened up the final period on a 31-14 run behind red-hot shooting from Giannis Antetokokunmpo and company.

As the Bucks caught fire, Boston’s offense was simply stalling when it mattered most, just like we saw time and time again against Miami and Toronto back in September. At one point, the Celtics had scored a mere eight points in seven minutes, opening the door for Milwaukee to steal a win in spite of a sensational second and third quarter by the C’s.

The Bucks rally set up a level playing field heading into crunch time. The Bucks took their first lead in the second half (115-113) on a Giannis Antetokounmpo postup with 3:26 remaining in the fourth quarter. With no Kemba Walker in the fold and Tristan Thompson at his minutes limit (22), the Celtics were going to need to rely on some new personnel (Jeff Teague) and improved poise against an improved Bucks team who had added some important firepower of their own for these spots in Jrue Holiday (25 points).

The headlines and highlights from this game will feature Jayson Tatum’s banked 3 that held up as a game-winner in a 122-121 victory once Giannis Antetokounmpo bricked his second free throw with 0.4 seconds remaining. However, the bigger story in this one was a different Celtics team emerging in crunch time in response to a furious Bucks rally. Instead of getting down on themselves or desperate with their decision-making, the C’s young core showed promising