How does one stop Giannis Antetokounmpo? The Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar has the wingspan of a California condor and can get from half court to the hoop with a single dribble. Defending him must be like putting a lightning bolt in a headlock, which why I’m happy I will never have to try. The Boston Celtics don’t have that luxury, but if Game 1 of their second-round playoff series against the Bucks is any indication, they have a pretty sound plan for how to approach him. Boston won 112-90 on Sunday, and they limited Antetokounmpo to just to 22 points on 33 percent shooting.
It was a great all-around performance from the Celtics, and their defense on Milwaukee’s MVP candidate is what stood out the most. Boston sent waves of players at Antetokounmpo, but center Al Horford was tasked with the brunt of this work. Horford is an experienced defender, and he stayed between Antetokounmpo and the rim all game. In one second-quarter sequence, Hoford stuffed Antetokounmpo twice, and he spiked the second attempt like he was playing tetherball against a summer camp nemesis.
Blocking Giannis is like high-fiving Godzilla. Even if you time it right, you still need to be big and strong enough to withstand the impact. Horford clearly is, and he managed to do what few players have done all season.
It’s easy to overreact to one game, especially when a team plays as well as Boston did on Sunday. But if Horford and the Celtics can keep the Bucks’ lightning bolt in a full nelson, then Milwaukee’s once-promising season will be in significant peril.