The Celtics picked up their defensive intensity to seal an impressive Game 1 road win over the Bucks on Sunday, swarming the paint and putting an emphasis on slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo’s primary defender, Al Horford, recorded three blocks (two of which were on him). The Celtics as a whole held the Bucks to just 35% shooting from the floor, including a 7-for-21 performance from Antetokounmpo. Boston’s energy drained Milwaukee, leading to the dominate 112-90 win.
“They were loading [the paint] a lot,” Antetokounmpo said, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “Lots of guys in the paint. Whenever I got in the paint, when I spin or try and change direction, the second guy was right there.
“I’ve just gotta go watch tape. If they are going to play like this the whole series, I have to be able to make the right pass, trust my teammates to knock down shots.”
For Horford and the Celtics, containing Antetokounmpo was the game plan entering Game 1. The next challenge for Boston is dealing with Milwaukee’s adjustments entering Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“I just think that our group, we all understood how we needed to defend and how dangerous he is once he gets it in the paint,” Horford said of Antetokounmpo. “So constantly tonight, we had a couple of breakdowns, but for the most part, I feel like everyone was very aware. Our guards really did a good job of helping and closing down lanes and things like that, and we just wanted to challenge and contest every shot as best we could.”
There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:
- The Heat could wait it out with Goran Dragic entering the final season of his contract, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes. Dragic will decide in the coming weeks whether to exercise his $19.2MM player option for next season, though Winderman notes it wouldn’t be beneficial for the team to extend him on a cheaper, multi-year deal that cuts into future cap space. Should Dragic opt into his player option, he’d become an unrestricted free agent in July of 2020.
- Miami has a long way to go before achieving star status in the East, Winderman writes in a separate article for The Sun Sentinel. The Heat essentially have the same roster situation they did a year ago (minus the fact that Dwyane Wade has retired), leaving more questions than answers about the organization entering this summer. The team is coming off a disappointing 2018/19 season that saw them finish at 39-43, the sixth worst record in the conference.
- The Pacers would be smart to consider trading one of Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis this summer, Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star opines. Indiana was swept by Boston in the first round of the playoffs this spring, failing to effectively play without injured star Victor Oladipo.