Celtics

Al Horford is Celtics' answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo

Al Horford is Celtics' answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo

WALTHAM, Mass – Brad Stevens knows, even if he had a full complement of talent available, the Celtics will need multiple players to step up their play in their first-round series against Milwaukee.

That said, no Celtic will be under greater scrutiny in this series than Al Horford.

The reason is two-fold.

Boston went into the season with a Big Three model, only to enter the postseason with one member of that talented triumvirate healthy – Al Horford. And while he is praised for his versatility to contribute in a multitude of ways, his job in this series will be to do what no one has done this season – slow down fellow All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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 “I trust Al to guard any position because he can really move his feet, he’s got great size and length, and his attention to detail is excellent,” said Stevens. “That said, it’s not on one person’s matchup the entire night. We have to throw a lot of different bodies at him.”

He’s right. 

But as we saw in the four regular-season games against Milwaukee, even that won’t be enough to shut him down. 

In the four games against Boston – with both teams winning two games apiece - Antetokounmpo averaged a staggering 33.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 53.9 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from 3-point range.

Still, Horford, while far removed from shutting him down, was arguably Boston’s best defender when matched up against Antetokounmpo. 

According to NBA.com/stats, the Greek Freak was 14-for-29 (48.2 percent) from the field when Horford was the primary defender. The rest of Boston’s defenders collectively allowed Antetokounmpo to shoot 56.7 percent (34-for-60) from the field in the four games played this season. Horford, a strong candidate to be named to one of the NBA’s all-defensive teams this season, is aware of how daunting a task it will be for the Celtics to limit Antetokounmpo’s impact. 

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“I think it’s just his ability to finish, and you know he’s a really athletic player that’s able to finish extremely well around the rim,” Horford said. “And just his ability to also get on the break and create chaos that way. So it’s just important for us to make sure that we’re between him and the basket as much as we can and just making sure that he’s not getting anything easy – easier said than done. He’s had some big games against us this year but that’s the point of emphasis that we have had heading into this series.”

And as much as the focus for Boston will be on how to collectively limit Antetokounmpo, all eyes will still be on Horford and how well – or woeful – he is defensively against Antetokounmpo. 

“The way that I look at it is I’m not going up against him, we’re going up against the Bucks, and a guy like him, you have to be able to contain him as a unit,” Horford said. “And that’s our mindset for the game.”

The Celtics will attack Antetokounmpo with a multitude of defenders throughout this series. Along with Horford, look for Boston’s Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye and Jayson Tatum to spend time defending Antetokounmpo. 

But ultimately, the Celtics will be counting on Horford to make a significant impact. 

“I mean just in general Al’s very important,” Stevens said. “He’s important to the whole growth of our organization and to what we try to accomplish in practice and games. I don’t think he’s any more or less important, he’s just always been really important. Yeah, he’s good.”

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    Celtics' Jaylen Brown organizes peaceful protest in wake of George Floyd's death

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    Celtics' Jaylen Brown organizes peaceful protest in wake of George Floyd's death

    Jaylen Brown is one of the many Americans speaking out against the death of George Floyd and the racial injustices that remain prevalent in this country.

    The Boston Celtics star has been outspoken about the issues over the last several days, and on Saturday he took to social media to organize a peaceful protest in Atlanta.


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    Brown also posted an important video message urging those who witness acts of racism to speak up or act on it.

    “Being a bystander is no longer acceptable," Brown said. "If you and your friends are around or are witnesses to cultural biases, micro-aggressions, subtle acts of racism, actual racism etc. and you don’t speak up on it or do something about it, you are part of the problem. We’re past the point where if it’s not in your governance space so you have nothing to do with it. If you don’t speak up on these issues, you just as bad.”

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    In addition, the 23-year-old posted an Instagram photo of himself holding a sign that reads, "I can't breathe," referencing the words said by Floyd before he was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

    Along with Brown, several athletes including Tom Brady and members of the New England Patriots have used their platforms to speak up about George Floyd's death.

    Another Larry Bird milestone to assert his place among the all-time greats

    Another Larry Bird milestone to assert his place among the all-time greats

    BOSTON -- The 1986 Boston Celtics are considered one of the greatest teams of all time, having run through the regular season with ease towards a dominant postseason that ended with the team hanging Banner 16.

    But weeks before the franchise’s triumphant conclusion to the season, there was another historic milestone.

    Larry Bird was named the league’s MVP 34 years ago this week for the third straight season, a feat that only two others - Bill Russell (1961-1963) and Wilt Chamberlain (1966-1968) - had ever done.

    It’s significant because it serves as yet another reminder of how historically great Bird was; not only for the Boston Celtics but for the entire league.

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    To carve out a spot in history with such an elusive group speaks to Bird’s greatness as a player who at the very least should be in the conversation as one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. 

    And what made that season even more special was that during the playoffs, the elite level at which Bird played during the regular season did not waiver or lessen up in the games that mattered the most. 

    In the playoffs that year, he averaged 25.9 points (0.1 points less than his season average) while increasing his field goal shooting (51.7 percent in the playoffs, 49.6 in the regular season), assists (9.8, from 8.2) and steals (2.1, from 2.0).

    And when the game was on the line, the only thing larger than Bird’s ability to come through in the clutch, was his confidence.

    “There’s no doubt I’m in control of what I do out there,” Bird said in an interview in 1986. “I can score any number of points my team wants me to if they give me the ball in the right situations.”

    And he did, over and over and over again before finally calling it quits on his Hall of Fame career in 1992. 

    Throughout his time in Boston, Bird had a number of stretches of brilliance as a basketball player. 

    But the three-year run in which he was the league’s best player, resulting in three consecutive league MVP awards, stands out in a career that was filled with standout moments.