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For the first time since their epic series in the 2022 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks square off on Christmas Day. Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo lead their respective teams into the third of five holiday matchups on Sunday.

The Bucks and Celtics carry the NBA’s two best records into their first meeting of the season. If it’s anything like last season’s playoffs, it should be one heck of a Christmas present to NBA Fans. Tatum and Antetokounmpo are both in the thick of the early MVP race, but who has the upper hand right now?

Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo headline Christmas Day action

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics celebrates a basket against Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks during the third quarter in Game 6 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Semifinals at Fiserv Forum on May 13, 2022, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

At 5 p.m. Eastern on Christmas, Tatum and Antetokounmpo will face each other for the first time since the Celtics outlasted the Bucks in a thrilling seven-game playoff series. It was a series that homecourt advantage meant very little, and you could expect the unexpected.

The Bucks had a golden opportunity to close out the series at home in Game 6, but Tatum played the best game of Boston’s grueling postseason run. The Celtics star went for 46 points to lead the visiting Celtics to a 108-95 victory and force a Game 7 back in Boston.

Tatum was spectacular from start to finish. He had struggled throughout the series. In his three previous games, Tatum shot 5-for-27 from three-point land. In the pivotal Game 6, he went 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and 17-for 32 in the game.

Antetokounmpo was steady throughout the series. With Khris Middleton out, the Greek Freak was forced to do more than normal. The Celtics/Bucks game is the centerpiece of the Christmas matchups this year. The list of holiday games are as follows:

New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers – 12 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN)
Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 2:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN)
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks – 5 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN)
Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies – 8 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN)
Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns – 10:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN)

Is Tatum or Antetokounmpo the better MVP candidate right now?


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Tatum and Antetokounmpo are always near the top of the early MVP conversation. Two weeks ago, Tatum held the lead in the Kia MVP rankings. The Celtics had the best record in the NBA at 21-5, but then things took a turn as they wrapped up a six-game road trip.

After double-digit losses to the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics trailed the LA Lakers by 13 points with less than four minutes to play but mounted a late rally to pull out an overtime win. When they returned to TD Garden for a seven-game homestand, they lost the first three games.

Milwaukee has been much more consistent. Antetokounmpo has led the way by averaging a career-high 31.4 points. He’s also putting up 11.3 rebounds ad 5.2 assists.

Tatum is averaging 30.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Boston’s recent slump sent him down a couple of spots in the latest Kia MVP rankings, putting him behind Antetokounmpo and Denver’s Nikola Jokic.

For now, Antetokounmpo is the right choice. He’s the better player on a more consistent team, but as we’ve seen, a lot can change in a matter of weeks.