Game 1 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals made most people believe that the Boston Celtics were finally ready to conquer the LeBron James-less Eastern Conference. The Celtics easily defeated the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks at home, and it seemed like they have already figured out how to limit Giannis Antetokounmpo’s production on the offensive end of the floor. However, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks managed to bounce back, and as of now, they are holding a 2-1 lead in the series after beating the Celtics in the last two games.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was already impressive in Game 1, but he still found a way to improve his performances in Games 2 and 3 to help the Bucks get back-to-back wins. In their Saturday game at TD Garden, the 24-year-old power forward finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks, and two steals on 61.5 percent shooting from the field, and 16-of-22 from the free throw line. In a post-game interview, as quoted by Tim Bontemps of ESPN, Antetokounmpo revealed that the key to their recent victories over the Celtics is for him to “keep being aggressive.”
“That’s what my teammates want me to do. I love getting to the free throw line. I’ve worked on it. I’m shooting my free throws with confidence, so it’s easy points for me and my teammates. I’m just going to keep being aggressive and making the right plays, and sometimes if I’ve got to take it all the way, then I’ll take it all the way.”
With his size and mobility, the Celtics needed to exert more effort on the defensive end of the floor in order to stop Antetokounmpo’s drive into the basket. However, when the Celtics’ defense solely focuses on Antetokounmpo, he can easily kick out the ball to his teammates waiting from beyond the arc. Antetokounmpo may not be a respectable floor-spacer, but the other Bucks’ starters — Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, Khris Middleton, and Eric Bledsoe — are reliable threats from three-point range.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s aggressiveness has undeniably become a major problem for the Celtics, especially in Game 3 where he was given 22 free throws and got some of Boston’s wingmen in foul trouble. After their recent loss, Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving complained about how the Bucks, specifically Antetokounmpo, were officiated, saying that it’s “slowing the (expletive) game down.” However, Irving later admitted that they shouldn’t put all the blame to the referees and should focus on the things that they can control.
“The refs have a difficult job,” Irving said. “We have a difficult job. Obviously, I could sit up here and complain — we know the disparity and what it is — but I’m not going to put all the emphasis on the refereeing.”
Game 4 between the Celtics and the Bucks will be on Monday night at TD Garden in Boston.