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.


 “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. 


“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.”


    NBA Rumors: Jaylen Brown to join strong Celtics contingent on Team USA

    NBA Rumors: Jaylen Brown to join strong Celtics contingent on Team USA

    Want to watch the Boston Celtics play this summer? Just tune into the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

    Celtics wing Jaylen Brown has been added to Team USA's training camp roster along with New York Knicks big man Julius Randle, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Tuesday.

    Brown will join new Celtics point guard Kemba Walker, guard Marcus Smart and forward Jayson Tatum, as Team USA's roster now features four C's players, the most of any NBA team.

    Team USA now has added two Celtics players in two days; Smart earned the nod Monday as Team USA seeks replacements for All-Star dropouts such as James Harden, Bradley Beal and Anthony Davis.

    USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo hinted Brown could crack the squad earlier this week, as the 22-year-old was on his "short list" of replacement players.

    There's a chance all four Celtics don't travel to China for the World Cup, though, as Team USA must trim its roster to 12 players before the tournament begins in late August.

    Here's a look at the updated roster as of Tuesday:

    Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
    Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
    Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
    Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
    Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

    Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
    Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
    Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings
    P.J. Tucker, Houston Rockets
    Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

    Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
    Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
    Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
    Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
    Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets
    Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks

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    NBA Rumors: Why Celtics wanted to offer Kyrie Irving an extension but didn't

    NBA Rumors: Why Celtics wanted to offer Kyrie Irving an extension but didn't

    There's plenty of blame to go around in Kyrie Irving's failed marriage with the Boston Celtics.

    Do the NBA's contract rules deserve some of that blame?

    In a column published Tuesday, ESPN's Zach Lowe reported the Celtics were planning to offer Irving an extension in the fall of 2018 but were done in by what they could put on the table.

    Boston would have offered Irving an extension last fall, sources say, but rules capped Irving's first-year salary in such a deal at 120% of his 2018-19 salary -- well short of what he stood to make by entering unrestricted free agency.

    That Boston wanted to extend Irving before all the drama of the 2018-19 season isn't surprising, considering he essentially promised C's fans he'd re-sign back in October.

    But given the rule Lowe cited, it still made sense for Irving to opt out and sign a new deal. Considering he made $20.6 million in 2018-19, an extension with Boston would guarantee him a maximum of $24.7 million in 2019-20.

    That number pales in comparison to the $31.7 million Irving is set to make in the first year of his $141 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets, meaning the Celtics were essentially forced to convince the All-Star point guard to opt out and re-sign on a new deal.

    Lowe writes the NBA could look into changing that rule, noting that a few executives have proposed extending a player's no-trade period to two years after signing a new deal. But it's hard to see players agreeing to such a change, especially in the age of player empowerment where stars have been able to maximize their earnings.

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