Celtics Believe They Can Stop Giannis Antetokounmpo — And They’re Actually Off To A Good Start

You can’t stop Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Boston Celtics say there is no law against trying.

Antetokounmpo, of course, is the star forward for the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, who are currently battling the Celtics in a second-round playoff series. That series is tied at a game apiece.

He has had perhaps his two worst shooting performances of the season vs. the Celtics, but despite that, the Bucks still won Game 1 in Boston.

Game 2, however, went the Celtics’ way, and much of it is because they were able to contain Antentokounmpo better than ever, maybe better than anyone has been able to do all year.

“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.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics center Grant Williams during the NBA playoffs. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Having Williams and veteran center Al Horford double-team Antetokounmpo has certainly helped matters. Those are two tall, athletic dudes.

“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 injured 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.

Follow Sam Amico’s NBA coverage @AmicoHoops

Written by Sam Amico

Sam Amico spent 15 years covering the NBA for Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports and NBA.com, along with a few other spots, and currently runs his own basketball website on the side, FortyEightMinutes.com.

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