Ojeleye gets chance to limit Giannis again in Game 6

Ojeleye gets chance to limit Giannis again in Game 6

MILWAUKEE – No matter how detailed you may want to get in dissecting how to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, it always comes back to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

A 7-foot playmaker who covers ground like a world class long jumper with pogo stick-like leaping ability, Antetokounmpo is a living, breathing mismatch the moment he steps on to the floor.

But he is human, something the Boston Celtics reminded us of in their 92-87 Game 5 win in which Antetokounmpo came one assist shy of a triple-double but only took 10 shots from the field.

“I had open shots but they weren’t my shots,” Antetokounmpo said after the Game 5 loss. “My teammates did a great job finding me … come Game 6 I gotta be more aggressive, make more plays.”

Boston’s Semi Ojeleye was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 5 and will likely stay there for tonight’s close-out game.

His role is to give Antetokounmpo a different look defensively in addition to a more versatile defender who matches up better on pick-and-roll switches than Aron Baynes has in this series.

In Game 5, mission accomplished.

Ojeleye discussed the challenges one faces when tasked with defending Antetokounmpo.

“His aggressive mindset,” Ojeleye said. “Every play, every possession, transition, he’s always looking to attack. You have to be aware of that at all times and just be ready. If he sees you relaxed, he’s going to try and take advantage of that.”

And while Ojeleye will be the first to admit that defending Antetokounmpo is a team effort and not the task of any one individual, it’s clear that he’s as good a Celtic as there is when it comes to defending Antetokounmpo. 

 “Giannis is a really hard guy to guard,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Semi has great lateral athleticism and obviously as strong as anybody in the league when he gets hit on a drive, and Giannis brings as much force on the drive as anybody in the league. He’s a hard guy to guard and he’s trying to make it as difficult as possible.”

According to NBA.com, Ojeleye has defended Antetokounmpo for 73 possessions, 40 of which came in Game 5.

Antetokounmpo has scored 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting against Ojeleye.

And in Game 5, Antetokounmpo scored seven points on 3-for-5 shooting when defended by Ojeleye.

Upon first glance, those numbers aren’t all that impressive.

But a slightly deeper dive reveals that Ojeleye defended Antetokounmpo on 40 possessions.

That means Antetokounmpo took a shot with Ojeleye defending, once every eight possessions the two were on the floor at the same time.

As Ojeleye mentioned, defending Antetokounmpo is not a one-man job. 

It is a team effort, but it’s clear thus far that Boston’s best shot at minimizing Antetokounmpo’s impact begins with Ojeleye as the team’s primary defender. 

“It’s big-time what Semi can do,” said Boston’s Marcus Morris. “We all know he can defend well. He’s finally getting a chance on one of the biggest levels and he’s coming through.”

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Celtics defense reemerges in Game 5

Celtics defense reemerges in Game 5

BOSTON – It was bound to happen sooner or later.

The Celtics’ defense has been too good this season to continue to get broken down one game after another by Milwaukee.

And the 92-87 Game 5 win Tuesday night was the breakthrough performance they had been longing for after four straight sub-par performances defensively.

The Celtics held the Bucks to several playoff lows on Tuesday, such as scoring (87 points), field-goal percentage (.348) and three-point shooting percentage (.273).

The return of Marcus Smart certainly bolstered Boston's defense. But more than anything, the Celtics played on a defensive string most of the night which was evident in Boston having a team defensive rating of 87.2 for Game 5 - their best defensive rating in the postseason.

Here are five other takeaways from the victory that gave the Celtics a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 Thursday night in Milwaukee:

50-50 BALLS


One of the domino effects of having Marcus Smart back in the lineup in Game 5, was his impact on getting loose balls. According to NBA.com/stats, Smart had two loose balls recovered which was part of Boston corralling 14 loose balls in Game 5 which was a series-high for the Celtics and loose balls recovered.

AL HORFORD


Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all; at least that’s what seems to work for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens in his dealings with Al Horford who made a major impact on Game 5 in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. He had a double-double of 22 points and 14 rebounds, but he also led the team in critical, below-the-radar categories such as contested shots (15) and box outs (12).

SEMI OJELEYE


A last-minute insertion into the starting lineup, Semi Ojeleye’s presence was felt. His defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo was important for Boston, obviously. But he also contributed in other categories, finishing second on the team in contested shots (10) and box-outs (8), the latter being critical to Boston’s continued dominance of the Bucks on the boards.

MORE PLAY IN THE POST


Boston got great mileage out of working in the post, but probably could have gone there more frequently. While the praise of Brad Stevens’ team continued to flow in, Stevens recognized his team has to do a better job at getting action in the post for Game 6. “We’ve got to be better at getting there, to the rim, and making decisions there,” Stevens said. “And I thought we did a good job at times, but we’ve just got to be a lot more consistent at it. Because they’re coming, they’ve got great length, they’re hard to score on. You know, we only threw it in there, I think, a couple times in the fourth quarter, to the post, and we probably need to be better at action and spacing around it.”

LIMITING THE GREEK FREAK'S TRANSITION GAME


There are few in the NBA who can strike fear in a defense the way Giannis Antetokounmpo can when he’s out in transition. Not only did Boston limit him to 10 shots taken, but of his 16 points, only two were of the fast-break variety according to NBA.com/stats. “It was our fifth time playing them,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Giannis, we wanted to limit in transition. And I think we did a pretty good job with that.”

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Celtics: Game 5 will come down to 'who wants it more'

Celtics: Game 5 will come down to 'who wants it more'

BOSTON -- We are at that point in this Boston-Milwaukee playoff series where X’s and O’s have little value. 

There’s very little either team can do at this point that would come as a complete shock to the other, and make sense at the same time. 

“It’s nothing new anymore,” said Jayson Tatum. “We’ve played them four games in a row. We know what we are going to do, they know what we are going to do.”

MORE ON THE SERIES

So what’s left?

“It’s just effort,” Tatum said. “Who wants it more.”

So far in this series, desire to win has been directly tied with the game’s location. 

Boston won an overtime nail-biter in Game 1 at the TD Garden and followed that up with another win in Game 2. The Bucks returned home and delivered a decisive Game 3 beatdown, then survived a late Celtics surge in Game 4 to hold on for a two-point win that included some late-game controversy

“The biggest thing that you learn as you go further into this is transition matters so much more; and rebounding matters so much more,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Making the right reads on offense matters so much more and those are the things that are somewhat within your control.”

And control is exactly what’s at stake tonight for both teams, knowing the loser will be in the first true must-win scenario when these two square off again in Milwaukee for Game 6. 

The significance of tonight is not lost on any of the Celtics players.

“Got to protect home court,” said Jaylen Brown. “Got to protect our house. They felt comfortable the last two games until those last few quarters, and that’s how we want to continue to play.”

Boston fell behind by 20 points (65-45) in the third quarter of Game 4, then steadily chipped away at the Bucks lead and eventually went ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play on a jumper by Tatum. 

But Milwaukee eventually came away with the victory following a tip-in by Giannis Antetokounmpo with 5.1 seconds to play. 

Boston had one last chance to tie the game and force overtime, but Marcus Morris’ fadeaway jumper was off the mark as the final horn sounded. 

The Celtics had practice on Monday and watched some video. But at this point, there’s very little they will do or see that will dramatically change their outlook and approach to tonight’s game other than the prospect of Marcus Smart (right thumb) suiting up tonight. That seemed a long shot until late Monday afternoon when the Celtics listed him as “questionable” for the game, the first time since his right thumb was surgically repaired last month that he hasn't been ruled out.

MORE ON MARCUS SMART

Regardless of who steps on the floor, the Celtics know at this point there are no secrets among these two teams.

“It becomes a game of inches now,” Brown said. “We played this team what, three or four times in the regular season, now it’s game five of the playoffs. We both know. Through the film, like we both know what each team wants to do and get out of it. Now it’s just who is going to come out on top.”

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