The Boston Celtics have lost Al Horford and Marcus Smart for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.

Horford will miss out after entering the NBA's health and safety protocols, while Smart has a right mid-foot sprain, the team said.

Losing center Horford and point guard Smart just hours before the series opener is a major blow to head coach Ime Udoka.

It remains to be seen how long the pair must stay sidelined. Both played significant roles in Boston edging out the Milwaukee Bucks in a semi-final series that went to a Game 7 decider on Sunday.

Speaking before the twin absences were announced, Udoka said the Celtics would look to make a strong start against Miami, despite lacking time for a breather between series.

Udoka said: "We didn’t get a ton of rest, as opposed to Miami, who had a few days off. But we're riding some momentum and staying sharp and there's benefits to that as well. Miami got [four] days off, but as far as what we did against Milwaukee, some carryover could be good."

Boston are not alone in being without key personnel. It had previously been announced Miami guard Kyle Lowry will miss Game 1 with a hamstring injury.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said the Eastern Conference Finals will be an old-school defensive slugfest, and that he feels the best two teams made it.

The Heat needed six games to triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Boston Celtics came back from 3-2 down against the Milwaukee Bucks to get the job done in Game 7.

As a reward for getting their series out of the way early, the Heat will have five days of rest before Tuesday's Game 1, while the Celtics have just one proper rest day between series.

Speaking to the media after Monday's practice, Spoelstra said it is shaping up as a series that will warm the heart of Heat president Pat Riley.

"Pat's [Riley] probably is going to enjoy this," he said. "This is like a throwback series. 

"If both teams are really on top of their games, this should be a series where neither team is scoring 130 points. Both teams hang their hats on rock-solid team defense, and making multiple efforts and being disciplined to schemes. 

"So it will be a lot of plays and things in the margins… really, we were the two best teams in the East most of the season and it's fitting that we're moving into the conference finals.

"Boston has played as well as anyone in the entire league once they got to 2022. It's not by accident. They're playing very strong basketball. They do it on both ends."

Heat star Jimmy Butler was asked about his potential matchup against Jayson Tatum, and he had nothing but praise for the Celtics' best player.

"He's one of the best in the game right now," he said. "As much attention as he draws on the offensive end – and then I think what's really impressive is the way that he's picked up his defensive intensity. 

"You got to tip your hat to that and respect him, I think those are the guys that you want to go up against."

Two years after meeting in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics are on a mission to flip the script on the Miami Heat.

In that 2020 series, which the Heat won 4-2 in 'the bubble' to advance to the NBA Finals, the Celtics were the higher seed, and were playing in their third Eastern Conference Finals in the space of four seasons.

But in hindsight, it was Miami who were built to win that series, despite it being their first time past the second round since LeBron James carried them to the finals in 2014.

Jimmy Butler was invigorated in his first year in Miami, in his physical prime at 30 years old and was determined to show he was not at fault for pushing his way out of the Minnesota Timberwolves and being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers in the space of a year.

He was also supported by Goran Dragic, just two years removed from his lone All-Star appearance, who in the series averaged 20.5 points and 4.7 assists per game in 34 minutes.

As well as having two strong initiators, the Heat also had a complete mismatch in the form of Bam Adebayo against a Celtics team starting Daniel Theis at center, with no competent back-up. Adebayo averaged 21.8 points while shooting over 60 per cent from the field, with 11 rebounds and five assists per game, and was clearly the most dominant player in the series.

When taking into account an outlier 37-point showing from Tyler Herro on 14-of-of-21 shooting that single-handedly won Game 4 112-109 for the Heat – making it a 3-1 series lead instead of 2-2 heading back to Boston – it begins to become clear that there was not much the Celtics could do, given their personnel.

Fast-forward a couple of years, 22-year-old Jayson Tatum is now 24 and in the midst of a rapid ascension into the game's best players, 23-year-old Jaylen Brown is now 25 and has developed into a true number-two option, Marcus Smart is now 28 years old and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and, more importantly, the supporting cast is built for the long-haul.

 

Replacing Theis with Al Horford may be the most consequential addition or subtraction on either side, with the potential to nullify the series-altering presence of Adebayo on the inside. Horford will also have help in the form of Robert Williams III – who became one of the best defensive players in the league this season – while Theis remains as a 'break glass in case of emergency' option.

Adding to the rise of the Celtics has been the emergence of Grant Williams as a reliable two-way player, capable of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo while hitting over 40 per cent of his threes, as well as the trade to add Derrick White as a second defensively sound 'small' guard next to Smart.

For a team with a real defensive identity – willing to 'switch' every screen and allow their small guards to take on bigger assignments – being able to replace Kemba Walker with a trustworthy, stout defender completely takes away an avenue of attack for a sharp offensive team like Miami.

What it also means is that the Celtics will not have to waste any minutes on players who have no business in big playoff series – such as Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye, who combined for 21.8 minutes per game in the 2020 series.

A run to the NBA Finals would be fulfilling the promises of Boston's advanced numbers, which after the All-Star break had the Celtics as not just a legitimate title contender, but as the favourite, and a historic team.

During that stretch, the Celtics were the number one offense – with a gap to the Charlotte Hornets at number two – and the number three defense, with a net-rating of 12.7. The Memphis Grizzlies (7.6) were the only other team with a net-rating above 6.0.

For the Heat, Dragic has been replaced by Kyle Lowry, who is now 36 years old and recovering from his second hamstring injury of the playoffs, and the veteran presences of Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder have been replaced by a combination of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and the shell of Victor Oladipo.

Erik Spoelstra boasts arguably the deepest bench in the entire NBA, but this is playoff basketball, which generally comes down to each side's best seven players, nullifying their advantage on the back-end of their roster.

The identity of this Miami offense through the playoffs has largely relied on the brilliance of Jimmy Butler, who at 32 years old is putting together the best playoff run of his career, averaging 28.7 points per game on 52.7 per cent shooting, with 7.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.1 steals.

 

Miami's second-best scorer this postseason has been Adebayo, way down at 14.6 points per game compared to his 19.1 for the regular season.

Butler was perfectly matched up against the Philadelphia 76ers, who have no wing defenders capable of matching the Heat star physically – but the Celtics do not have the same problem.

The Celtics have at least four players – Tatum, Brown, G. Williams and R. Williams – who match up well with Butler, and they showed against the Milwaukee Bucks that they were more than happy to play straight-up defense and force one player to try and beat them with isolations all day.

If Miami cannot figure out a way to unleash a second scorer in a real way – be it Herro, Adebayo, or even Strus, who averaged 20.5 points in his two matchups against Boston this season – they may be playing straight into the Celtics hands. 

The one advantage Miami will have is the rest-factor. It will be five days since the Heat's Game 6 win against the 76ers, while the Celtics will only have one true rest day after handling their business in Game 7 on Monday night.

For the regular season, the Heat won all three of their games with at least three days rest, although the Celtics were the fourth-best team in the NBA coming off one day of rest (28-13, .683 winning percentage).

If the Heat can take advantage of their fresh legs and win Game 1, anything could happen, but ultimately, just like the Celtics were almost helpless in 2020, the Heat just may not have the horses this time around.

Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry has been ruled out of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics with a hamstring injury.

Lowry, 36, averaged 13.4 points, 7.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game in 63 regular season starts, but has been plagued by injuries in the postseason.

Miami's point guard initially suffered a hamstring injury in Game 3 of the Heat's first round series against the Atlanta Hawks, missing the remainder of the first round and the first two games of their round two clash against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Lowry scored zero points in his return for Game 3, and then re-injured his hamstring in Game 4 as the Heat lost both games before rallying back to win the series in six.

Game 1 against the Celtics will be around 10 days removed from the aggravation of the injury, and given the timetable of hamstring injuries, particularly in older players, it can safely be assumed Lowry remains at least a week away from a possible return.

Marcus Smart is questionable for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a mid-foot sprain.

Head coach Ime Udoka revealed the Boston Celtics star suffered the injury in their blowout win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of their semi-finals series.

Smart is, therefore, a doubt to face the Miami Heat in the series opener in south Florida as the Celtics aim to steal the initiative against the East's one seed.

The 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year, Smart has arguably not had the impact he would have desired so far in the postseason.

However, he played an instrumental role in forcing Game 7 against the Bucks, scoring 21 points and recording seven assists and five rebounds to help the Celtics set up a decider.

Smart had 10 assists and seven rebounds in Game 7, finishing with a plus-minus of plus-18 that was second only to Grant Williams (+25) as the Celtics routed the Bucks 109-81.

Perhaps his biggest influence in this postseason has been on the glass.

During the playoffs, opponents are averaging 43.6 rebounds per 100 possessions when Smart is on the court and 46.7 when he is off the court.

Similarly, opponents have averaged 13.5 second-chance points per 100 possessions with Smart out there compared to 15.3 against Celtics line-ups not including him in the playoffs.

The Celtics also do a better job of stealing the ball with Smart on court (7.3 per game) compared to when he is on the bench (6.2).

Boston will hope to have him out there to prevent Jimmy Butler and Miami from getting hot, and the Celtics will have center Rob Williams, who has not featured in any of the last four games due to a bone bruise, available with no minutes restriction.

Grant Williams scored a career-high 27 points as the Boston Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, defeating the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks 109-81 in Game 7 on Sunday.

Williams went seven-of-18 from the perimeter to lead the Celtics, with four others scoring in double digits in Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard, who added 14 points off the bench.

The 23-year-old's seventh triple of the night came at an important time, too, with the Bucks starting to gather momentum at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Tatum was pivotal on both ends despite seven turnovers, putting up 23 points on 50 per cent shooting, eight assists and six rebounds.

The Celtics were able to restrict Giannis Antetokounmpo from scoring easily, with the reigning finals MVP getting 25 points but on 10-of-26 shooting, along with his 20 rebounds and nine assists.

With the series-deciding win, the Celtics have set up a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, facing the first-seeded Miami Heat.

Doncic dominates as Mavs demolish Suns

Both of the contestants in the 2021 NBA finals were knocked out in same night in Game 7s on Sunday, with the Dallas Mavericks blowing out the first-seeded Phoenix Suns 123-90.

The Suns scored a disappointingly low 27 points on their home floor in the first half, as threes rained in on the other end, and the Mavs went into the main change with a 30-point lead.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker went missing when they were needed most, generating little in terms of dribble penetration and combining for 21 points on seven-of-22 shooting.

Conversely, Luka Doncic had come into Game 7 with shooting splits of 45.7 and 29.6 per cent but lit the Suns up with the season on the line, finishing with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

More importantly, Doncic was able to get his teammates good looks, with Dallas shooting an 48.7 per cent from the perimeter.

The Mavericks will now face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. 

It almost feels as though using the Ron Burgundy 'boy, that escalated quickly' GIF would be a little too on the nose.

The NBA Conference semi-finals proved to be just as dramatic as we all hoped, with two of them going all the way to all or nothing Game 7s.

In the East, despite a bit of a comeback once Joel Embiid returned from injury, the Philadelphia 76ers were unable to halt the number one seed Miami Heat, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are also out after going down in Game 7 to the Boston Celtics.

Over in the West, the Golden State Warriors overcame the Memphis Grizzlies in a tempestuous series defined by Ja Morant's knee injury, while a sensational performance from Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks saw them destroy the Phoenix Suns in their own backyard in Game 7 on Sunday.

They may not be the Conference Finals many predicted, but they will be absolutely covered in compelling narratives, so Stats Perform is here to take a look at what should be two fascinating contests to determine this year's NBA finalists.

Eastern Conference Final

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

Perhaps this pairing was to be expected given they are the one and two seeds respectively in the East, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo in their corner and an NBA championship to defend, many will have expected the Bucks to get the better of Boston.

The Celtics showed their mettle, though, in particular Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 28.3 points per game (PPG) in the postseason.

Tatum's 6.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game are supported by an impressive average of four turnovers as the 24-year-old has set about trying to drag his team all the way.

He has not been alone though, with Jaylen Brown averaging 22.2 PPG, while an unlikely hero emerged in the 109-81 win against the Bucks on Sunday as Grant Williams top-scored with 27, the first time he has done so for the Celtics. Williams hit seven of the Celtics' 22 made three-pointers in an incredible shooting barrage.

 

The Heat took full advantage of an Embiid-less Sixers in the opening games of their series with Philadelphia before losing their 2-0 lead, only to see it out 4-2.

Jimmy Butler shone throughout and is averaging 28.7 PPG in the playoffs so far, as well as 5.4 assists and 7.5 rebounds.

His 32 in Game 6 helped ease any nerves about going to a decider, while even the 40 he managed in defeat in Game 4 made the Sixers work harder than they should have had to.

The Celtics won two of their three meetings with the Heat in the regular season, but Miami were triumphant last time out in late March, winning 106-98 at TD Garden thanks to 24 from Butler and 23 from Kyle Lowry, who may not feature in Game 1.

Lowry injured his hamstring in Game 3 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, and is a doubt for the start of this series.

Western Conference Final

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors

Can you stop Luka Doncic, or do you just watch in awe and hope the ball pops before he can score?

That probably won't be the question Steve Kerr and the Warriors will be asking, but they will certainly have to come up with some way of dealing with the dangerous Slovenian.

Doncic is averaging 31.5 PPG from his 10 playoff games so far and was unsurprisingly trending on social media on Sunday as his own personal scoring was such that he was single-handedly matching the Phoenix Suns in the first half at Footprint Center.

His 6.6 assists and 10.1 rebounds per game in the postseason also show how dominant he has been, but that should not take away from the fine work going on elsewhere in Jason Kidd's team.

Having had to carry the Mavericks through most of the first round against the Utah Jazz in Doncic's absence, Jalen Brunson demonstrated his worth with 24 against the Suns in Game 7, while Spencer Dinwiddie posted 30 points of his own too.

 

The Warriors are unsurprisingly just as good at spreading the wealth, even if Stephen Curry – like Doncic – is leading the way with his 26.9 PPG in the playoffs.

The three-point assassin is tied with team-mate Klay Thompson for shots from beyond the arc, with both sinking 42 efforts in the postseason so far, which emphasises the importance of Thompson as well, who has averaged 20.4 PPG.

Jordan Poole is playing his part too with 19.3 PPG, including a 50 per cent success rate on field goal attempts, making 74 from 148.

Dallas may have the upper hand going into this one, not just because of their complete undressing of the Suns in Game 7, but also because they won three of the four games against Golden State in the regular season, with Doncic scoring 41 in their last meeting in early March.

Luka Doncic lauded the belief in the Dallas Mavericks dressing room after playing a starring role in a 123-90 thrashing of the Phoenix Suns.

The Mavs advanced to the Western Conference finals, where they will face the Golden State Warriors, courtesy of a dominant showing in Game 7 against the top-seeded Suns.

Doncic had as many points as Phoenix in the first half, making a mockery of the Mavs' status as supposed underdogs.

And it came as no surprise to Doncic, who finished with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

“I know we were the underdogs,” he said.

"Everybody had the Suns to win this one, but the whole locker room believed and that's what won us the game."

Asked whether he knew he alone had matched the home team's total first-half points tally, Doncic said: "Yeah, of course.

"I'm having fun. I always say when I'm having fun it is the way I best play.

"Honestly, I'm really happy, man. You can't get this smile off my face right now.

"I think we deserve this. We were playing hard the whole series – maybe a couple of games here we were not ourselves.

"But we knew we came here with a statement Game 7. We believed, our locker room believed, everybody believed, so I'm just happy."

Chris Paul vowed to carry on playing after the Phoenix Suns suffered more playoff heartbreak by going down to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals.

A year ago, the Suns blew a 2-0 lead to lose the NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks but responded by recording the best regular-season record in the league this campaign.

Once again the Suns were heavily fancied and even more so after taking a 2-0 lead against the Mavs.

But on Sunday it was a feeling of deja vu as the Suns were blown out of the water in a 123-90 defeat to crash out of contention.

At one stage the Mavs led by 46 points, while the Suns had just 27 in a disappointing first half – veteran Paul not registering his first field goal until the third quarter.

With Paul now 37 years of age, and reportedly playing with a quad issue, naturally there was talk of retirement, but the 12-time All Star plans to continue as he chases that elusive first NBA championship.

"You play long enough and you don't win, every time you lose, they're going to say it was your best chance," Paul told reporters.

"But I think for me, us, it's we'll be right back next year. I'll tell you that much.

"I'm not retiring tomorrow, thank God. Hopefully, I'm healthy coming back. But I'm [going to] keep playing."

Paul's series mirrored the Suns' fortunes. He averaged 23.5 points and had just two turnovers in the Suns' opening two victories but in the following five that slipped to just 9.4 points and an average 3.6.

Paul said now the Suns simply have to "get back to work".

"It was just a tough game. All season long, we tried to lean on our defence and tonight our defence wasn't there and our offence wasn't there either," Paul said. 

"I think coach [Monty Williams] said a lot of it. You play all season to be in this situation and it didn't work out for us.

"There's probably no greater message than get back to work. At the end of the day you at least had a shot at it, one of 16 teams in the playoffs and a great regular season, but we didn't reach our goal.

"I don't think anything matters except everybody just trying to get a little bit better for next season.

"It's tough. Obviously we got further last year, but we didn't reach the goal. We've got a lot of young guys on our team and I think, even just this experience of this playoffs is better than not. It's unfortunate in the fashion that we lost, but we've got to try to figure out ways to get better.

"At the end of the day, they just executed better than we did. Defensively, we just never caught up with the ball.

"They were making tough shots, they were getting threes, lay-ups, a little bit of everything and we never made the game competitive."

Grant Williams scored a career-high 27 points as the Boston Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, defeating the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks 109-81 in Game 7 on Sunday.

Williams went seven-of-18 from the perimeter to lead the Celtics, with four others scoring in double digits in Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard, who added 14 points off the bench.

The 23-year-old's seventh triple of the night came at an important time, too, with the Bucks starting to gather momentum at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Tatum was pivotal on both ends despite seven turnovers, putting up 23 points on 50 per cent shooting, eight assists and six rebounds.

The Celtics were able to restrict Giannis Antetokounmpo from scoring easily, with the reigning finals MVP getting 25 points but on 10-of-26 shooting, along with his 20 rebounds and nine assists.

With the series-deciding win, the Celtics have set up a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, facing the first-seeded Miami Heat.

Doncic dominates as Mavs demolish Suns

Both of the contestants in the 2021 NBA finals were knocked out in same night in Game 7s on Sunday, with the Dallas Mavericks blowing out the first-seeded Phoenix Suns 123-84.

The Suns scored a disappointingly low 27 points on their home floor in the first half, as threes rained in on the other end, and the Mavs went into the main change with a 30-point lead.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker went missing when they were needed most, generating little in terms of dribble penetration and combining for 21 points on seven-of-22 shooting.

Conversely, Luka Doncic had come into Game 7 with shooting splits of 45.7 and 29.6 per cent but lit the Suns up with the season on the line, finishing with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

More importantly, Doncic was able to get his teammates good looks, with Dallas shooting an 48.7 per cent from the perimeter.

The Mavericks will now face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. 

Klay Thompson said it felt "so special" to lead the Golden State Warriors into the Western Conference Finals after the Dubs got the better of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Playing close to his best, Thompson shot 11-of-22 from the field for a 30-point game, nailing eight of 14 attempts from long range in a 110-96 win in Game 6 of the semi-finals.

After clinching the 4-2 series success, the 32-year-old Thompson said it was a joy to be contributing on a high level again.

Major knee and Achilles injuries have seriously disrupted the career of one of the NBA's finest shooting guards, who won championships with the Warriors in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Thompson finished the regular season with four 30-point-plus games in his last six outings, but he had managed just one such high-scoring performance in 10 of the team's postseason games until coming good on Friday night.

Speaking in an on-court ESPN interview, Thompson said: "I just tried to focus on the present, and I was thinking about the last couple of years and what the team has been through and what I personally have been through, and to have another closeout game at Chase Center it gave me butterflies.

"I was nervous all day, but I just had so much fun tonight, and I'm proud of this team for being so resilient."

The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to make 20-plus three-pointers and grab 70-plus rebounds in a single game, regular season or postseason.

Now they wait for the winner of Sunday's Game 7 between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.

The Western Conference Finals await, and the Warriors have not reached that stage since 2019, when they went one step further by sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers to reach the NBA Finals.

Thompson suffered an ACL injury in the Game 6 championship series-ending loss to the Toronto Raptors, forcing him to miss the entire next campaign.

His perspective on reaching the latter stages of the playoffs has changed with experience.

"I know that became routine in the 2010s for the Dubs, but that's a special, special opportunity," Thompson said. "We do not take that lightly. We're going to kick our feet up the next couple of days, watch this Suns-Mavs Game 7 and get the popcorn ready, but it's so special.

"I'm going to enjoy tonight, and I'm going to be hungry when that time comes because you can't take it for granted, nothing's guaranteed in sports."

Jayson Tatum said forcing a Game 7 in Boston "means everything" after he scored a game-high 46 points to carry his Boston Celtics to a 108-95 win in Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tatum shot 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long-range for his 46, while Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 44 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to put up 40-and-20 in a playoff game.

Unlike Antetokounmpo, Tatum had strong support from his teammates, with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combining for an efficient 43 points, while Al Horford collected team-highs in rebounds (10) and blocks (four).

After a disappointing Game 5 showing at home, Tatum told reporters post-game that the timid performance was lingering in their memories, determined not to make the same mistakes.

"[The Game 5 comeback] was in the back of our mind… it's something we talked about," he said.

"We felt they beat us on 'winning' plays – hustle plays, 50-50 balls – they were tougher than us in the fourth quarter of Game 5. 

"I think just how much it stung – losing like that. Everyone had a bad taste in their mouth.

"That was in the back of my mind, it was in the back of everyone's minds. Our season was on the line, we knew that, and we had to dig deep and give everything we had. 

"[But] we were upbeat, we weren't defeated – knowing we still had an opportunity to save our season by coming in here and getting a win, and we believed that, we truly did. We believed in each other, and I think that showed tonight."

Touching on the Bucks and what makes them so good, Tatum emphasised their unity and cohesiveness, with everyone buying into their roles.

"They're a great team," he said. "I think everyone over there knows their role, and everyone is a star in their role – they compliment each other really well. 

"They're well-coached, they run great sets, and they're not going to beat themselves. They've done it before, and we know that, so coming into the series we knew it wasn't going to be easy – by no means – whoever wins was going to have to earn it.

"I was excited to play today – Game 6, you know, this is a big moment. For all of us, for myself and the team and how we would respond. 

"Losing Game 5 was going to make us or break us, and I think we showed a lot of toughness and growth coming out here and getting a win on the road and giving ourselves a chance."

Tatum was all smiles at the thought of Game 7 heading back to Boston, saying this is what competitors dream of.

"It means everything," he said. "It's the best atmosphere in the NBA, and Game 7s are the biggest and best games.

"I'm looking forward to it, truly… this is it, do or die. 

"This is going to be fun – it's supposed to be fun, it's basketball."

The Boston Celtics survived a historic performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo as Jayson Tatum scored 46 points to carry his side to a 108-95 win, tying the series at 3-3 and forcing a Game 7 in Boston.

Antetokounmpo became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to eclipse a playoff stat-line of 40 points and 20 rebounds, finishing with 44 points on 14-of-30 shooting, going 14-of-15 from the free throw line and an even 20 boards. He also added six assists, two blocks and one steal.

But Tatum was matching him every step of the way on the offensive end, shooting 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long range, with nine rebounds and four assists to go with his 46.

It was a game that the Celtics controlled from the second quarter, restricting the Bucks to 17 points in the frame to grab a 10-point half-time lead, and although the home side made runs, Boston had all the answers.

The Bucks were a one-man show, but the Celtics had a number of solid contributors as Jaylen Brown shot seven-of-16 from the field and four-of-seven from deep for his 22 points, while Marcus Smart shot eight-of-16 and five-of-nine from beyond the arc for his 21.

Al Horford finished with just two points, but had a game-high four blocks and a team-high 10 rebounds as he made Antetokounmpo battle all day inside, while Derrick White also chipped in with 30 important minutes off the bench, complimenting the stars perfectly.

Jrue Holiday and Pat Connaughton were the only other Bucks to score more than six points as Milwaukee shot 40 per cent from the field and 24 per cent from three (seven-of-29).


'Game 6 Klay' returns to clinch series 

The Golden State Warriors booked their trip to the Western Conference Finals with a 110-96 win in Game 6 of their series against the Memphis Grizzlies, advancing with a 4-2 margin.

To the Grizzlies' credit, without Ja Morant, they stayed competitive through three quarters, before a 32-19 final frame for the Warriors put the game to bed.

While most Warriors players rose to the occasion, none played better than Klay Thompson, who lived up to his glittering reputation in Game 6s with 30 points, shooting 11-of-22 from the field and eight-of-14 from long range.

Stephen Curry added 29 points on 10-of-27 shooting, adding seven rebounds and five assists, while Andrew Wiggins was strong on both ends, scoring 18 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking three shots.

After being bullied on the interior in Game 5, the Warriors re-injected Kevon Looney into the rotation, and he collected a game-high 22 rebounds in 35 minutes, while Draymond Green had 14 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists.

The Warriors will play the winner of the Game 7 showdown between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks.

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