Celtics 365: Shocking the MVP with a Memorable Comeback
At this time last year, the Boston Celtics were just beginning their journey through the 2019-20 NBA campaign. Little did they know at the time that it would wind up being the most unprecedented 365-day trek in NBA history.
It took an entire year to complete the season, as a four-month, midseason hiatus in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed playoff basketball all the way into mid-October of 2020. As a result, the beginning of the 2020-21 Season has been pushed back to an undetermined date.
In light of that delay, we want to make sure Celtics basketball remains in your lives this fall, when NBA basketball is usually in full swing. So we’ll be taking you on a 365-day rewind back to last season as we highlight some of the most memorable performances from the campaign - all on the one-year anniversary of each occurrence. We’ll refresh some fun memories while also keeping you in the basketball mindset for when next season begins.
We’re starting off our 365-day rewind with an instant Celtics classic and a game that included one of the franchise’s most memorable moments in recent history: Boston’s 19-point comeback victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Oct. 30, 2019, which was highlighted by Paul Pierce’s passing-of-the-torch interaction with Jayson Tatum.
After opening the season 2-1, the Celtics welcomed reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks into their home for a revenge match, as it marked their first meeting since May 8 of that year when Milwaukee sent the C’s home from the Playoffs in a five-game, Eastern Conference Semifinals series.
Vengeance didn’t seem achievable early on, however, as Milwaukee dominated the first quarter 34-19 and went up by as many as 19 points during the second frame, before taking a 58-42 lead into halftime.
Fortunately for the Celtics, they had two third-quarter saviors awaiting: one on the court in Tatum and one in the stands in Pierce.
Pierce, having been a part of countless comebacks inside TD Garden over the years, knew what the Celtics needed at this time was a boost of energy from the crowd. So, he started to pump them up from his courtside seat.
The player who fed off of Pierce’s energy the most was Tatum, who rebounded from a 2-of-10 first-half shooting performance with a 4-of-6 effort in the third quarter, which included a perfect 3-for-3 clip from 3-point range.
With each shot Tatum made, Pierce became more animated on the sideline, pumping his fists and shouting words of encouragement.
“It was crazy,” Tatum said of Pierce’s morale-boosting spirit after the game. “Every time he comes to a game, he always gives us energy. I talked to him before the game, and just to see someone like him standing up, yelling, cheering.”
After the 21-year-old wing canned back-to-back 3-pointers near the end of the third quarter to cap off a 13-0 run which gave Boston a four-point lead, The Truth couldn’t handle himself any longer. At that moment, he stepped out onto the court with his right arm outstretched toward Tatum, who made sure to high-five the Celtics Legend while running back for the last defensive possession of the frame.
That, right there, was one of the most iconic snapshots of Boston’s season, as it represented the passing of the torch from the star of one Celtics generation to the star of the next.
Tatum wound up scoring 20 of his 25 points during the second half, including 11 during Boston’s third-quarter comeback. His new teammate, Kemba Walker, then made sure that the comeback effort was upheld, as he tallied 13 of his game-high 32 points during the fourth quarter to ensure a 116-105 victory.
The second half in its entirety was a dominant stretch for the Celtics, as they outscored Milwaukee 74-47 over the final 24 minutes of action. Along with the strong scoring performances from Tatum and Walker, Boston also got 22 points out of Gordon Hayward, and 19 points out of Marcus Smart, who started in place of an injured Jaylen Brown. Smart also did an excellent job in helping to limit the eventual back-to-back MVP, Antetokounmpo, to 22 points.
This game had a little bit of everything: a massive comeback, a payback win, clutch performances from Boston’s stars, and of course, the iconic passing of the torch from Pierce to Tatum, who would wind up ascending into superstar status by season’s end.