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The (rein)deer got run over on Christmas: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Bucks

Boston blew out Milwaukee in the marquee matchup of title contenders

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

1. “Best Win of the Season” isn’t an official award or anything, but we have a new contender for the unofficial hardware. From the start, the Boston Celtics were in control of their Christmas Day matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. In the second half, Boston turned it into a runaway victory.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown did the star stuff, while everyone else played their role basically perfectly. It was the kind of all-around victory that Boston hasn’t had in recent weeks. And it showed why the Celtics are still at the top of the title contenders list.

Until some late trading of baskets in garbage time, Boston locked down on defense in the second half. They held Giannis Antetokounmpo to just 9-of-22 from the floor. It was a pretty complete performance on both ends.

Against the other best team in the NBA, the Celtics looked at their best. And it came with the world watching too.

2. Jayson Tatum likely would have gone for 50 points, if not for being barely needed in the fourth quarter. By the time Tatum got back in the game, the Celtics were in control and Jaylen Brown was on fire.

But Tatum was dominant and flashed his full scoring package earlier in this game. It started with an early pullup three in transition:

A little later, Tatum used his spin-back move to get all the way to the rim to finish through some contact:

After a wonderful steal by Marcus Smart, Tatum drove it the whole way for another finish through contact:

Midway through the second quarter, Tatum put Giannis Antetokounmpo on a poster:

In the third quarter, Tatum really got it going. He scored 20 of his 41 points in the period, including a stretch where he scored 12 of 15 points for Boston.

It started with this step-back triple:

Tatum knows Brook Lopez wants to drop to the rim, so he gets him moving backwards before drilling the pullup:

On the next trip, Tatum uses the hesitation dribble to blow by Grayson Allen for the floater:

This stare-down three over Antetokounmpo is just ice cold:

Then Tatum went to work inside again. Jrue Holiday is a great defender, but when Tatum is locked in and getting to his spot, there’s nothing you can do:

Pat Connaughton doesn’t really have a chance here. Tatum is too big and too good to be bothered on this shot:

That was a lot of clips to show the diverse ways in which Jayson Tatum can score. He’s arguably the NBA’s most versatile scoring threat right now, especially when you factor in that he also got to the free throw line 10 times.

3. Jaylen Brown isn’t going to be overlooked here. He was great to open the game, and then Brown took over early in the fourth quarter. Because the Celtics started a smaller lineup, Brown was able to get matched up with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez on an island several times.

On this play, Brown doesn’t wait for the Al Horford screen to muddle things up. He just blows by Antetokounmpo and Lopez both for the layup:

Lopez might be the Defensive Player of the Year. His rim protection has been elite all season. But Lopez has no business, nor chance of, guarding Brown this far up the floor:

Brown hit some fourth-quarter jumpers and layups, but this one was the best of the bunch. The Bucks are hanging around and the shot-clock is running down. The Celtics trust Brown enough to run a late-clock action for him here and he delivers with the star play:

4. Maybe the best thing about Jayson Tatum’s and Jaylen Brown’s Christmas night? They were unselfish and played within the team, even when both could, and maybe should, have taken every shot.

These two shots were in the middle of Tatum’s huge third quarter. Here, he drew two defenders and set up Derrick White:

Tatum could have taken this shot, but he sees Grant Williams is working from the corner office on Christmas:

Before getting himself going in the fourth quarter, Brown got his teammates going. Like Tatum, he spots Grant Williams in the corner. The patience here is great from Brown, as he takes an extra dribble to let the traffic clear before zipping the pass to the corner:

Speaking of patience, Brown forces Brook Lopez to commit before lobbing it up to Rob Williams:

Tatum and Brown combined for 70 points on 25-of-41 shooting, but they also combined for nine assists. They’re the stars, but they both know they aren’t going anywhere without a lot of help from their friends.

5. Marcus Smart is the Celtics point guard. That debate had better be dead and buried as 2022 comes to a close. In 68 minutes over his last two games, Smart has had 18 assists against one turnover.

Pretty regularly, Smart is driving his man, drawing the help defender and leaving it for a teammate, as he does with Blake Griffin here:

No one is better than throwing the Rob Lob than Smart is, and he hooks up with Williams from distance here:

This is just gorgeous basketball. Smart pushes it hard in transition before delivering he beautiful dime to Jayson Tatum:

6. You saw Rob Williams finish off that lob above, but he made a couple of other standout plays in this one too. First, Williams went up and over Giannis Antetokounmpo for this rebound and putback:

Williams looks noticeably bigger up top. We’ll have to find out if he used some of his recovery time from knee surgery to work on his upper body, but Williams used to get sent back on plays like this. Here, he took the hit and was right there to contest the shot from Bobby Portis:

7. Derrick White played another really solid game. He plays with great personal pace. And White is stronger than he looks, as evidenced by this and-1:

Boston was pushing pace all game, and it’s great to see the two guards working together like this, as White and Marcus Smart run the break perfectly:

8. Malcolm Brogdon had a nice game off the bench against his former team. He’s so strong and crafty, especially when driving for floaters like this:

Later in the game, Brogdon kept the drive-and-kick machine working. And check out Grant Williams with a little shimmy as a nod to a friend of his who is battling cancer:

9. Your intrepid author tweeted this after Sam Hauser missed his first couple of shots:

Hauser responded minutes later by drilling this right in my mug:

And Hauser hooked up with Luke Kornet for the Maine Connection to put a capper on the festivities:

10. It was a great night for the Boston Celtics. They showed up against a fellow title contender and blew them out.

Now, it’s back to work on Tuesday against a decidedly non-contender in the Houston Rockets. It’s Boston’s next-to-last game on the seven-game homestand. The Celtics are back in first place by 1.5 games and it’s time to keep things moving forward with a win over one of the NBA’s worst teams.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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