MILWAUKEE -- Semi Ojeleye is a smart dude.
He knows that whenever the Boston Celtics play the Milwaukee Bucks, he’s going to get a decent run that night with most of his time spent defending Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But as much as he’ll be the primary point defender on Antetokounmpo, he is quick to deflect any praise defensively directed towards him, to the team.
“I don’t think it’s me. I think it’s our team,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “You could say that or everybody on our team when they guard him.”
Nice try Semi, but we ain’t buying it.
And neither are his teammates like Marcus Smart who will spend some time defending Antetokounmpo tonight as well.
“Semi man, he’s strong as a damn ox,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “You’re not moving him easily. And Giannis, he does a really good job of using his length to beat people. But Semi, with his strength and ability to stay in front of guys bigger than him, his athleticism… hopefully that can contain him and with everybody else helping around him, we’ll see.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments about Ojeleye.
“There’s only so many guys that have the strength to have a chance in slowing down Giannis,” Stevens said. “And that’s all you’re trying to do, make it as difficult as possible and make him earn everything. He still gets to where he wants to go, you still have to show with multiple defenders. But Semi’s body allows for minutes at that matchup.”
A. SHERROD BLAKELY
And while there are a number of factors that contributed to these two teams splitting the first two games they played this season, there’s no question Ojeleye’s defense on Antetokounmpo was a factor.
In Boston’s 117-113 win over the Bucks on Nov. 1, Ojeleye defended Antetokounmpo for a team-high 24 possessions, limiting him to nine points on 3-for-6 shooting. For the game, Antetokounmpo had 33 points on 13-for-22 shooting to go with 11 rebounds.
Milwaukee evened the season series up with a 120-107 win on Dec. 21.
Ojeleye defended him for just 15 possessions (the team leader defending Antetokounmpo was Jaylen Brown, who guarded him for 16 possessions) and gave up 10 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting by Antetokounmpo. For the game, he finished with 30 points on 8-for-13 shooting.
“I just try to make it tough on him,” Ojeleye said. “He’s a great player. I just try to lock in and make it tough as possible. With a guy like that, try to take away dunks and layups. From there, just hope he misses.”
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