NBA: Jayson Tatum hits game-winner as Celtics edge Bucks, Heat fall in season opener

Antetokounmpo, who last week signed a five-year contract extension reportedly worth a record $228 million, led Milwaukee with 35 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.

Agence France-Presse December 24, 2020 13:58:31 IST
NBA: Jayson Tatum hits game-winner as Celtics edge Bucks, Heat fall in season opener

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) sunk the game decider with less than a second on the clock against the Milwaukee Bucks. AP

Los Angeles: Boston Forward Jayson Tatum banked in a game-winning three pointer over Giannis Antetokounmpo with 1.5 seconds left to give the Celtics an 122-121 NBA season-opening victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo, the two-time defending NBA Most Valuable Player, had a chance to tie it from the free-throw line with four-tenths of a second left, but the Greek superstar missed his second free throw after being fouled at the rim and the Celtics came away with the win on their home floor.

"Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be in that position," Tatum said of stepping up despite a relatively poor shooting night.

Tatum, who said he "played terrible" after making only 12 of 28 shots from the floor, still finished with 30 points with seven rebounds and two assists.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 33 points, five rebounds and four assists.

"It's the first one of the season, so it felt good to get a win," Tatum said.

Antetokounmpo, who last week signed a five-year contract extension reportedly worth a record $228 million, led Milwaukee with 35 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.

Khris Middleton added 27 points and 14 rebounds for the Bucks, who finished the 2019-20 regular season with the best record in the NBA but fell to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Antetokounmpo's final free-throw miss was just his second in eight attempts from the foul line in the game.

"The more you're in situations like that, the more you can succeed, the more you can get the best out of moments like that," he said.

"So I want to be in those moments. I want to be down the stretch, I want to shoot the last two free throws, I want to shoot the last shot because if you think about it, if you do that 1,000 times, some of the time it's going to go in."

Covid concerns

The nail-biter in Boston was one of a dozen games on the second night of the 2020-21 season.

It was supposed to be 13, but Houston's home opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed as COVID-19 concerns - including James Harden's violation of anti-virus protocols that cost the superstar a $50,000 fine - left the Rockets with less than the required eight players available to stage the game.

Harden was ineligible after the league found he attended a party on Monday in violation of protocols prohibiting players from attending indoor gatherings of more than 15 people.

The Rockets also had three players return positive or inconclusive coronavirus tests, and four other players were isolated due to contact tracing.

It was a sooner-than-expected jolt for a league that managed to crown the Los Angeles Lakers champion in a quarantine bubble in Florida just over two months ago but is now launching a season in which teams are playing in their home arenas as coronavirus cases continue to surge.

One day after the Lakers launched their title defense with a loss to the LA Clippers, the Miami Heat - who fell to the Lakers in the championship series - fell 113-107 to the Orlando Magic.

Evan Fournier scored 25 points for Orlando, who trailed by two points with less than five minutes remaining.

It was close in Denver, where Sacramento's Buddy Hield produced a put-back basket at the buzzer to give the Kings a 124-122 overtime victory over the Nuggets.

Westbrook triple-double

Russell Westbrook looked just the same in new surroundings, notching the first triple-double of the fledgling season with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists for his new team the Washington Wizards, who nevertheless fell 113-107 to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Westbrook notched the 147th triple-double of his career as he chases Oscar Robertson's NBA record of 181.

Bradley Beal added 31 points for the Wizards, but 76ers big man Joel Embiid scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and pulled down 14 rebounds for the 76ers, playing for the first time under new coach Doc Rivers.

Elsewhere, number one draft pick Anthony Edwards came off the bench to score 15 points for Minnesota and the Timberwolves - led by Malik Beasley's 23 points - rallied for a 111-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Karl-Anthony Towns added 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, his three-pointer with 3:38 to play giving Minnesota their first lead of the game 98-97.

It was a less auspicious debut for the third overall pick in November's draft, LaMelo Ball, who went scoreless in 16 minutes for the Charlotte Hornets, who fell 121-114 to the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

Ball, younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, handed out three assists and came up with two steals.

Ten-time All-Star Chris Paul, traded by the Thunder to Phoenix in November, opened his Suns tenure with a 106-102 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

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