Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks staved off elimination on Thursday night, beating the Boston Celtics, 97-86, in Game 6 to tie their first-round series at 3-3. With that, we know we'll have the first Game 7 in the first round, with the Celtics hosting the winner-take-all game on Saturday night.
Here are a few keys to the game.
Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot
It is the age of the 3-point revolution, but, as they say, you either live by the 3 or you die by the 3. In the first six games of this series, the team that shot better from the 3-point line has gone on to win the game.
|Game||Bucks 3-point shooting||Celtics 3-point shooting||Winner|
8 of 21 (38.1 percent)
11 of 26 (42.3 percent)
7 of 17 (41.2 percent)
13 of 31 (41.9 percent)
16 of 33 (48.5 percent)
8 of 24 (33.3 percent)
10 of 23 (43.5 percent)
10 of 29 (34.5 percent)
9 of 33 (27.3 percent)
10 of 31 (32.3 percent)
8 of 26 (30.8 percent)
10 of 36 (27.8 percent)
There's little reason to expect that this will be different in Game 7. In a series like this, where both teams have really struggled to score at times, being more efficient from the 3-point line can make a huge difference.
Runnin' down a dream
Much like 3-point shooting, fast break points will be key to who advances with a Game 7 victory. It's not so much a matter of who will score more fast break points -- it's almost assuredly going to be the Bucks -- but how much the Celtics can keep the Bucks out of transition.
Milwaukee loves to get out in the open court. It was an important part of their offense in the regular season, as they finished sixth in the league with 14.6 fast break points per game. And against the Celtics, who boasted the league's best defense in the regular season, it's even more important. It's much easier to score out in transition than having to break down the stingy Boston defense in the halfcourt.
In Game 6 in particular, they got loose for 34 transition points compared to just six for the Celtics. While that's not likely to happen again, how many easy baskets the Bucks can get will go a long way towards determining who wins.
Paging MVP Giannis
Giannis is going to give the Bucks plenty of production in Game 7 -- there's no doubt about that, he's simply too good. However, there's a big difference between the All-Star version of Giannis, who showed up in Game 5, and the MVP version of Giannis, who showed up in Game 6.
In Game 5, Giannis took only 10 shots. He finished with a near triple-double, recording 16 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, but that simply isn't enough scoring from him -- it was no surprise they lost that game. But on Thursday night, Giannis was far more aggressive, going for 31 points and 14 rebounds on 13-of-23 shooting.
Giannis going for 30-plus points doesn't guarantee a Bucks win, but it's going to be very tough for them to win a Game 7 on the road without Giannis playing at his peak. He's the only player in the series capable of taking over a game by himself, and the Bucks will need him to do that on Saturday night.