The Boston Celtics have had the pleasure of facing the Milwaukee Bucks four times this season. That should give reason to believe that a first-round game plan will be well intact, courtesy of Brad Stevens.
Boston and Milwaukee split the series during the regular season 2-2. The most recent incarnation being a 106-102 Bucks win on April 3. This was a game in which Terry Rozier was absent from the lineup, giving two-way G-League prospect Kadeem Allen an opportunity to get his first career NBA start. The loss, however, was not a reason to blame a decimated Celtics lineup for falling short. Instead, it provided a recent in-depth look into how Boston can defeat the Bucks in a seven-game series.
According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, there are two remedies for success on defense for the Celtics to make their way to the second round of the playoffs.
“If I’m the Celtics you literally let Giannis kind of have his, but you don’t let Middleton and those guys get going,” Washburn said on the new episode of Celtics Beat. “Or you play much better defense against Giannis, let him shoot jumpers, and do not let him get to the basket.”
This season, Antetokounmpo has an effective field goal-percentage of 37.3 outside the paint, which ranks as the third worst mark in the NBA amongst 206 players who attempted 200 shots.
Getting closer to the rim, Antetokounmpo averages 13.3 points per game in the restricted area, which is the most since Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal racked up during the 2002-03 season.
So with the statistics laid out, it seems like it would be wise for the Celtics to stack the box, play off of Giannis, and force him to take jumpers, and if that’s how he beats Boston, then so be it.
“You can’t let Khris Middleton go for 26. You can’t let Jabari Parker come off the bench and score 20,” said the Boston Globe’s NBA writer. “That’s been their problem over the last couple years – is guys like Malcolm Brodgon have hurt them. Or a Middleton. Other guys have hurt the Celtics when they’ve played the Bucks.”
Going along with the big-man theme, Washburn thinks the Celtics need to get a big series out of Al Horford. He told Adam Kaufman that Horford will be relied on as much on the offensive end, as he is with interior defense against Antetokounmpo.
“They’re going to need – they can’t have nine points, six rebounds, and a few assists. They gotta get 16-17 from Al,” Washburn said. “Baynes has to score around the rim…Milwaukee doesn’t really have imposing bigs, Henson and Zeller, but they’re there.”
Some other keys Washburn detailed to Celtics Beat are an in control Terry Rozier, who has a lot to prove to be a NBA starter, as well as the growing chip on Boston’s shoulder.
“These guys [Morris and Rozier] have played with chips on their shoulders throughout their careers,” Washburn said. “So now you’re telling them without their superstar they can’t get it done; they’re just going to fall flat? I would think for sure that’s going to motivate them. And I think that should play a factor.
“That home crowd, Game One Sunday afternoon, 1 o’clock start, people are going to be fired up. Because I think they know how important that first game is. Make a statement, punch Milwaukee in the mouth, get that first one and put them on their heels.”