Throughout the first two games of this heavyweight matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, the Celtics have done an outstanding job of containing Giannis Antetokounmpo’s dominant interior scoring abilities.
It was on full display on Tuesday night as Boston’s top-tier defensive prowess led them to a controlling Game 2 win to even the series at 1-1. If the Bucks are going to find more success moving forward, Antetokounmpo might need to adjust his attacking mindset.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo struggling from the field against the Celtics, his playmaking should be the ultimate difference-maker for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped 28 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one steal, and one block across 38 minutes during the Game 2 loss but found it difficult to efficiently score against Boston’s versatile, swarming defense for a consecutive game. The two-time MVP shot 40.7 percent from the floor, connecting on just 11-of-27 field goals after shooting 36.0 percent from the field in Game 1.
The Celtics are doing everything in their power to make Antetokounmpo uncomfortable with the ball in his hands, and it’s been working flawlessly for the most part. While Giannis has had trouble scoring at an efficient rate, he’s also struggled with taking care of the ball as he’s committed 11 turnovers over these first two games of the series.
Nevertheless, Antetokounmpo is still providing a significant two-way impact on the court since there’s obviously much more to his superstardom than his scoring ability. The reigning Finals MVP has become an elite passer over the years, which has been showcased in the postseason thus far.
During Game 1, Giannis tallied 12 assists to complement his second career playoff triple-double and displayed some more highlight-worthy passes across his seven assists in Game 2. When you combine the enormous attention that the six-time All-Star receives offensively with his improved passing, there’s a recipe for success that stems from Antetokounmpo serving as a playmaker.
In this series against the Celtics, Giannis Antetokounmpo will have to take advantage as the playmaker on the offensive end. The Celtics have made containing him from scoring in the interior as the focal point defensively, similar to every other team in the league, but Boston has the personnel of multiple versatile, tough, and physical defenders that can hold their ground against Giannis, unlike many other squads.
Al Horford has been terrific as the primary defender on Antetokounmpo, Grant Williams continues to show promise when given the responsibilities, and Marcus Smart, the Defensive Player of the Year this season, can bother him as well. Additionally, Robert Williams III is an exceptional help-side defender in the paint while Jayson Tatum’s undervalued defensive skillset and Jaylen Brown’s strong presence for a wing add to the high-powered versatility that Boston possesses defensively.
Evidently, the Celtics have what it takes to slow down Antetokounmpo’s attacking pursuit toward the rim that’s been the most dominant in the league for a while now. However, due to the attention that Giannis attracts, his ability to find open teammates and penetrate toward the basket with the mindset of being a playmaker instead of a scorer could be a massive difference-maker in this series moving forward.
When Antetokounmpo is driving in attack mode with the mindset of finishing at the rim against Boston, he’s mostly forced tough shots or turned the ball over. The Celtics haven’t been perfect, but they deserve a lot of credit for how successful they’ve been making Giannis earn buckets inside the arc.
Although, if Antetokounmpo can shift his intentions to being a playmaker more often while being more decisive in the process to tune out the costly turnovers, Milwaukee could wreak havoc on the Celtics offensively. We’ve already seen spurts of Giannis punishing Boston with his stellar playmaking ability, so if he can focus more on making the right reads and finding open teammates with patient facilitating and better decisiveness rather than forcing shots in attack mode, the Bucks will find a source of consistent offensive production.
As the series heads to Milwaukee with a crucial Game 3 on the horizon, Giannis Antetokounmpo must break down Boston by consistently utilizing his undervalued playmaking ability.
With Khris Middelton reportedly out for the remainder of the series, the Milwaukee Bucks will need Antetokounmpo to be more of a shot creator than a scorer to overcome the second-seeded Celtics.