Celtics-Bucks preview: Stopping the Greek Freak

Celtics-Bucks preview: Stopping the Greek Freak

The humor of the question was not totally lost on Isaiah Thomas.
The 5-foot-9 guard was asked if he could imagine would it be like if he had the length of Milwaukee’s 6-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Is that a short joke?” he quipped. “No, I can’t imagine that.”
Neither can most of the NBA, which has seen Antetokounmpo (pronounced ah-deh-toh-KOON-boh) evolve from the Greek kid with the name that’s hard to spell let alone pronounce, into being one of the most dynamic players in the league to date which landed him a starting spot in the Feb. 19 All-Star Game.
“He’s very talented,” said Thomas who will be Antetokounmpo’s All-Star teammate in New Orleans. “We know if he plays well, they [Milwaukee] usually play well.”
Which is makes this recent stretch of games so baffling.
The Bucks (21-24) come in having lost two in a row and seven of eight.
But in the last eight games, Antetokounmpo has delivered All-Star caliber numbers across the stat sheet: 24.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals.
While he is indeed the leader of a team whose greatest strength is their collective length, this team has a very limited supply of top-flight shooters.
And one of the best of the bunch, Khris Middleton, has been out all season following a hamstring tear shortly before the season was about to start.
There’s a chance that he’ll be back before the All-Star break.
But in the meantime, the Celtics will try to replicate the success they’ve had the past couple of games which has in part been fueled by good ball movement.
Doing so becomes even more important against the Bucks because of their length and ability to cut off passing lanes.
“We have to be ready to make that extra pass because they are long,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “You have to be ready to draw two [defenders] in and kick it out and trust those guys are going to be there to catch it.”
Milwaukee’s length manifests itself defensively, particularly when it comes to defending on the perimeter.
This season, nba.com/stats shows the Bucks defend a league-high 25.5 3-point shots per game, which is part of an overall defense that ranks seventh in contested shots (65.7) per game.
But the Bucks’ length may not be as big a factor as it has been in previous meetings.
Milwaukee lost 102-86 at Toronto on Friday, but played a small-ball lineup that at times had 6-8 Jabari Parker playing center.
The Celtics have had 6-10 Jonas Jerebko and 6-7 Jaylen Brown in the starting lineup the past two games, both providing energy and versatility on defense that has allowed Boston play the ability to better defend teams that decide to go with a smaller, non-traditional lineup and still be able to hold their own against dribble penetration or on the boards.
The goal tonight is pretty simple for Boston.

“We gotta try and sneak one out of Milwaukee,” Thomas said.

Horford helps Celtics get back on track

Horford helps Celtics get back on track

Aggressive Al Horford was on the floor Friday night for the Boston Celtics, a good sign for a Celtics team that has been battered by injuries. 

As the oldest member of the team, the 31-year-old’s leadership has to become more example-driven as well as existing in the spoken word.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST  - Smart's importance to C's, dissecting the East

Horford was on point for most of Friday’s 92-83 win over Orlando, a game that was far more lopsided in Boston’s favor than the final score might indicate.

The 6-foot-10 forward/center had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. 

What was more telling was that Horford took a team-high 18 shots from the field, as clear a sign as you will find that Horford’s mindset on Friday was to attack Orlando’s defense early and often. 

And while it’s true that the Magic are one of the worst teams in the NBA, that doesn’t diminish the way Horford executed the plays called by head coach Brad Stevens as Horford played the role of primary scorer more often than usual, instead of being a major facilitator.

Having missed Boston’s previous two games, Horford was admittedly concerned if the lay-off might affect his conditioning. 

“Wind-wise I felt good,” Horford told reporters after Friday night’s win. “A little rusty on offense. But defensively I felt great. I felt our team came out with energy; just a good win.” 

A win that became a lot easier to get with Aggressive Al on the floor. 

 Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds in Boston’s 92-83 win over Orlando.



Terry Rozier: He continues to provide the Celtics with really solid guard play, with all-star guard Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) missing. Rozier had a game high-tying 17 points along with seven rebounds and five assists. 

Greg Monroe: The third quarter was when Monroe really began to take over the game. He finished with 17 points, 10 of which came in the third. 

Shelvin Mack: Not a lot to cheer about for Mack and the Magic who once again struggled in so many phases of the game. But Mack still managed to score 16 points. 



Al Horford: Having missed the two previous games, Horford was back in full force on Friday. He had 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting to go with nine rebounds

Boston rebounding: The Celtics control of the glass began from the outset and never really eased up. For the game, Boston grabbed 55 rebounds compared to just 40 by Orlando. 



Fourth-quarter Celtics: The only real blemish on an otherwise impressive performance by Boston, was the team’s overall play in the fourth quarter. Boston was outscored 31-17 and turned the ball over 10 times in the quarter. 


Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

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Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

The Orlando Magic are one of the few teams already eliminated from playoff contention. 

And on Friday, it didn’t take long to see why.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST - Smart's importance, dissecting the Eastern Conference

The Boston Celtics didn’t waste any time taking control of the game and never letting up as they cruised to a 92-83 win.

Terry Rozier and Greg Monroe led the Celtics with 17 points each and Shelvin Mack had 16 points and seven rebounds for Orlando.  

With the win, the Celtics (47-22) snapped a two-game losing skid and improved their record since returning from the All-Star break to 7-3. 

Getting back on a winning track was just part of Boston’s motivation heading into Friday night’s game. 

With several key players out with injuries, the Celtics’ depth was once again on display from the opening tip to the final horn. 

In the first half, reserve guard Shane Larkin led the team in scoring with 10 points. 

And in the third quarter, backup center Greg Monroe was too much for the Magic to handle around the basket.

In the third, Monroe scored 10 of his 17 points off Boston’s bench. 

This was a game that the Celtics showed few signs of the kind of let-up we have seen them display against bad teams from time to time. 

But Orlando opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run that cut Boston’s lead down to 77-61 with 9:18 to play. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had seen enough and called a time-out. 

Orlando was able to chip away a little more at Boston’s lead which peaked at 24 points but was down to single digits in the fourth which provided a glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe, the Magic could get back in the game.

But when it mattered, Boston made the plays in the game’s closing moments to secure the victory. 

For the Celtics, the goal on Friday night was two-fold: find a way to win and come away healthy. 

Boston found success on both fronts, a refreshing change the Celtics hope to do more of going forward. 

Marcus Smart underwent surgery on his right thumb earlier in the day, which is expected to keep him sidelined for 6-8 weeks which would put his return to the floor at the earliest, sometime near the end of the first round of the playoffs or early into the second. 

Daniel Theis underwent season-ending surgery recently for a meniscus tear in his left knee.

And Boston played without Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness), but he might back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against New Orleans.

Al Horford returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to an illness, and he didn’t disappoint in finishing with a near double-double of 15 point and nine rebounds.