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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    Vincent Poirier confirms he's joining Celtics in Instagram message to fans

    Vincent Poirier confirms he's joining Celtics in Instagram message to fans

    Vincent Poirier reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with the Boston Celtics back on July 2, but we haven't heard much from the French big man since then.

    That changed Monday morning, as Poirier posted a message to his Instagram story confirming he's parting ways with his European club team, Baskonia, to join the Celtics.

    Baskonia also made the announcement on Twitter while thanking Poirier for his contributions.

    Poirier spent two seasons with Baskonia in the Spanish ACB, averaging 10.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season while earning All-EuroLeague Second Team honors.

    In Boston, he'll join a new-look frontcourt that lost Al Horford (free agency), Aron Baynes (trade) and Guerschon Yabusele (waived) while adding Enes Kanter in free agency and bringing back Daniel Theis.

    It sounds like Poirier is excited to get started with the "mythical" Celtics franchise and compete for minutes as he realizes his NBA "dream."

    UPDATE (1:35 p.m. ET): Poirier officially has signed with the Celtics, the team announced Monday. Boston didn't confirm the terms of his deal.

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    Five takeaways from Celtics' performance in Las Vegas Summer League

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    When the Celtics completed their run at the Las Vegas Summer League over the weekend, it signaled the start of the quiet part of the year for basketball fans.

    All the big-name free agents have already come off the board. The summer league action is over, and the preseason is still more than two months away. We even have to wait about a month until the 2019-20 regular season schedule gets announced.

    But watching the C's play five games in Las Vegas provided fans with several takeaways heading into next season.

    Tacko Fall was a fan favorite, but will he get a contract with Boston — or a two-way deal — for next year? Carsen Edwards finished with the Celtics' highest summer league scoring average in 15 years, but where will he slot in to the lineup? There were also positives from both Williamses — Grant and Robert — as well as second-round pick Tremont Waters.

    Here are A. Sherrod Blakely's five takeaways from the Celtics' performance in summer league.>>>>

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