The Celtics are trying to do the impossible in the first-round series vs. the Bucks, and that would be to stop superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. And if not entirely stop him, at least try to make him work like crazy on the offensive end.
They seem to think it’s possible after tying the series at 1-game apiece on Tuesday.
“We feel like we have the defensive guys to do it,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka told reporters. “Obviously, [Antetokounmpo] came out extra aggressive in the second half, but he scored 28 points on 27 shots.
We defended well initially, and Grant (Williams is) a big part of that. His versatility, he’s like a mini Al out there. We ask him to do the same things. … His versatility to switch onto guards and guard [Antetokounmpo] one-on-one in the post and be physical and frustrate him to some extent is what we need. So, we’ve got four guys we feel comfortable throwing at him. Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) are bigger wings as well, so we can throw a lot of bodies, and that’s one of Grant’s main strengths, guarding guys like that — him and Al.”
While the Bucks stole Game 1 in Boston, Antetokounmpo has has arguably his worst two shooting nights of the season vs. the Celtics. So Udoka may have a valid point.
Having Williams and veteran center Al Horford double-team Antetokounmpo has certainly helped matters.
“I view it as guarding him on an island, where it’s just you and him, and you have to do your job,” said Williams, who scored a career-high 21 points in Game 2. “For us, that was how we viewed it for this game, to see how it would go, and he started being a lot more aggressive in the second half and getting downhill and creating for himself, but it’s just one of those things where you just have to kind of hunker down and trust in the work that you’ve done and do your best to contain one of the best players in the world.”
That said, the Bucks are hoping to have All-Star forward Khris Middleton back for the series, though that seems very much up in the air. Until then, Antetokounmpo says he will just have to get used to the Celtics’ decision to constantly swarm him.
“I’ve seen it my whole career,” Antetokounmpo said.