Celtics

Blakely's takeaways: Giannis drops 35, but Stevens isn't complaining

Blakely's takeaways: Giannis drops 35, but Stevens isn't complaining

BOSTON – Giannis Antetokounmpo had another big game against the Boston Celtics, lighting the Green Team up for 35 points.

Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton also torched the Celtics to the tune of 31 points.

But the Bucks got little else from the rest of their team, a key to Boston’s 113-107 overtime win to go up 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton combined for 66 points, or 61.7 percent of Milwaukee’s offense.

Despite their scoring, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was for the most part pleased with how his team defended Milwaukee’s 1-2 scoring punch.

“I thought we did an incredible job on Giannis,” Stevens said. “And so he had 35 points, but I thought our bigs kept him in front, made it as tough as possible. He had multiple possessions where he had to stop, pivot, pump-fake, and all that stuff. And still find a way to get the ball up on the glass.”

When it comes to Middleton, “he’s a really, really smooth shootin’ guy,” said Stevens, adding, “You know, he averages 20 (points) a game. People don’t talk about him enough, probably.”

As far as containing the rest of the Bucks who shot a combined 17-for-42 (40.4 percent) compared to the 23-for-41 (56.1 percent) by Antetokounmpo and Middleton, Stevens said there was no specific plan of attack to take away or limit the rest of the Milwaukee players.

“I mean, you still … you just prepare for each guy; Middleton, Giannis, and everybody else for what they do best,” Stevens said.

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 113-107 overtime win over Milwaukee in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first round series against the Bucks.

 

HUNGRY HORFORD

The Celtics could not have been more transparent about their plan to get the ball to Horford a lot when guarded by Antetokounmpo.  

Fifteen seconds into the game and Horford had his first basket, a five-foot hook shot over Antetokounmpo in the paint.

Horford scored a team-high 24 points on a ridiculously efficient 5-for-8 shooting.

Of those eight shots, only one was uncontested (a put-back dunk).

Out of the remaining seven field goal attempts, four came when Horford was being defended by Antetokounmpo.

“We wanted to make him play in the post, and make Giannis defend down there,” Stevens acknowledged.

 

Horford Livin’ Large at the Free Throw Line

That steady dose of feeding Horford in the post led to the five-time all-star taking a playoff career-high 14 free throw attempts with 13 makes, which nearly doubled his previous playoff career high for free throws made (7) and attempted (8). 

“I wasn’t really trying to (draw fouls). I was trying to score,” Horford said. “But they were fouling me, reaching, whatever. I was trying to be aggressive, score the ball.”

 

Tatum joins exclusive club

Jayson Tatum has been etching his name in the Celtics record book for rookies most of this season. But his latest entry may be the most impressive of them all. He had a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, become just the third Celtic all-time to tally a double-double in his first playoff game. The two other two? Hall of Famers Tommy Heinsohn and Bill Russell.

Second-quarter struggles continue

Boston had yet another woeful second quarter, missing 16 of their 20 shots from the field in the second. And yet the deficit at halftime was just three points (47-44). “They turned it up on us in the second quarter and we were playing well up to that point but not well enough,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

 

Celtics mental toughness challenged

After seemingly having Game 1 won, only to find themselves heading to overtime following Khris Middleton’s 3-pointer that forced overtime, the Celtics were cool as can be in the unexpected extra period. 

“I thought it was over,” said Boston’s Al Horford, referring to the 3-pointer made by Terry Rozier that put the Celtics ahead with 0.5 seconds to play. “Everybody always says play to the last second and everything, but half a second I figured we were good. As soon as he shot it I was like, ‘oh that’s good,’ I just had a feeling. He hit it and we had to refocus and our guys we did that and just kept on grinding it out.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Anything is Podable Episode 6: The games behind-the-scenes

Anything is Podable Episode 6: The games behind-the-scenes

It’s hard not to be intense when Kevin Garnett is on your team. For the 07-08 Celtics, that fire extended beyond the court and into every waking moment they spent together.

Episode 6 of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” goes behind-the-scenes with the members of the world champion Celtics to get a never-before-heard glimpse into the games and competitions that brought them all closer together.

“Everything is about competition and we, as a staff, understood that early,” said Doc Rivers. “For practices, if there was no score, it was a bad practice. All you had to do was put a winner and a loser and the practice went from here to here. It was just that type of group.”

Whether it was on road trips, at practice, or in the weight room, everything about the team revolved around competition and an innate desire to win.

“Everything was competitive,” stated Rajon Rondo. “The boxing gloves came out in the weight room.”

As is the case with every great team, the bonding off the court was essential to finding success on it. Anything that could possibly be turned into a competition, was.

Arm wrestling? Check.

Push-upsYou bet.

On a road trip in Miami, Paul Pierce challenged Glen Davis to eat a large piece of bread in under one minute.

“Have you ever tried to eat a piece of bread like that?” Davis asked. “It gets dry. You can’t swallow it. It sounds easy, but people don’t know how dry bread is...I almost like choked and died.”

“You’re talking about a guy who loved to eat,” Pierce joked.

“I couldn’t do it,” Davis responded.

Competition off the court breeds competition on the court and, while the talent helped, little games like the ones played on road trips were vital to the Celtics achieving their ultimate goal.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

A story earlier this week from Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes calling burgeoning young Celtics star Jayson Tatum one of the NBA's five most overrated players has expectedly ruffled some feathers in the Boston sports stratosphere. 

But Tatum himself is taking the high road. In a conversation with ESPN's Chris Forsberg centered around his recent workouts with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the 20-year-old forward, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting this past season, said he wasn't bothered by the article:

While Hughes acknowledged that Tatum could be a franchise player, his reasoning for inclusion on the list was that he could be a victim of the stacked team for which he plays, saying, "Kyrie has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover."

As for the session with Kobe? Tatum clearly absorbed a lot:

Hughes also named Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Bulls foward Zach LaVine and Suns forward Josh Jackson in the company of overhyped players.

It's been quite a week for Tatum, the former No. 3 overall pick out of Duke University. Earlier in the week, the St. Louis native had his jersey number permanently retired at his high school alma mater.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE