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Celtics-Bucks Game 1 takeaways: Al Horford contains Giannis Antetokounmpo



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MILWAUKEE – Well, who saw the one coming?

In an impressive screen of both offensive and defensive ends of the floor, Celtics issued a good old-fashioned beatdown on Milwaukee Bucks Sunday afternoon. Boston gave Bucks their worst loss of the year, a 22-point expulsion, at their home base.

"We felt they came out and hit us in the mouth," guard guard George Hill said after the 112-90 defeat at Fiserv Forum.

It was never out of the question that Celtics could win Game 1 in their second round playoff series against Bucks. But doing so in such a way was a repressive statement. Clearly, Celtics thinks when they say that the capricious season is behind them ̵

1; and even though they say they could lessen the high preseason expectations, they begin to look more and more like the juggernaut who everyone pointed them out from the start.

"I just think we got very focused and locked in on the things we wanted to do as a group," Al Horford said. "We knew we should play a very solid game. I felt our focus was good from the start."

Here's what we learned from Boston's Game 1 victory:

Al Horford continues to prove that he is far from average.

After the game, Celtic coach Brad Stevens repeated what he preached all season: "You can't overestimate Al Horford's importance to our team."

Horford seemed to make it all Sunday afternoon with 11 rebounds and 20 points at 50 percent shooting for its third double-double of the postseason. His shot chart shows just how precious he is offensive, as he is able to knock shots from the perimeter, the middle edge, the post and around the rim. His threat as a shooter allows Celtics to stretch the floor, while his ability to open up gives them control over paint.

  Al Horford Shots Chart
Al Horford's Game 1 Shot Chart -ESPN.com [19659014] But none of Horford's offensive highlights Sunday compares to what he could do in the defensive end: Close MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"He was Al Horford, we all know and love," team member Gordon Hayward said.

In the third quarter, with Celtics up by 10, Horford filled the Anti-Token on back-to-back trials in the restricted area – the other being a spectacular all-ball rejection. The possession was just a piece of frustration Horford was striking all afternoon, making scoring look quite difficult for the likely league MVP.

Antetokounmpo shot 33.3 percent from the court, down from his the normal-sand shooting percentage of 57.8 and completed a game-low minus -24. His first field goal did not reach the opening minute of the second quarter, and another 10 minutes passed before he nodded his second.

According to the NBA tracking data, Horford Antetokounmpo guarded a team of high 31 possessions and contained him at 11 points in 3 to 11 shots. The three buckets were all three pointers, reflecting a departure from Antetkounmpo's usual attack method – and dominating – paint.

"I just think our group, we all understood how we needed to defend and how dangerous he is when he gets it in paint," Horford said. "We had a couple of breakdowns, but for the most part I feel that everyone was very attentive. Our guards did a great job of helping and closing paths and things like that. We just wanted to challenge him and dispute every shot as best we could "It felt like we could do it tonight."

Malcolm Brogdon's return seems more important to Bucks than Marcus Smart's to Celtics.

Boston remains without a guard Marcus Smart who undoubtedly makes the team better with not only his defensive firmness but also his ability to pass. However, Celtics has been able to step up in Smart's absence and mitigate the impact of his loss.

Bucks is also without a member of their starting rotation – guarding Malcolm Brogdon, who in March hit a plantar fascia in his right foot – but it certainly lost in Game 1. When Milwaukee started five shots 15-for-50 from the court, is it hard to wonder if Brogdon, a 42.5 percent three-point shooter, averaged 15.6 points per games could have made a difference.

Brogdon's replacement, Sterling Brown, made only one basket in its 22 minutes on the floor and ended with three points. He was not alone as guardian Eric Bledsoe and center Brook Lopez both made only a field goal.

Should Celtics continue to close Antetokounmpo in the paint, it is imperative that Bucks & # 39; shooters give offensive contributions beyond their performances Sunday. Milwaukee's front office constructed their roster with several talented patrons around Antetokounmpo for a reason.

"If Boston is to do what they did tonight, we'll have to make shots from the perimeter," said Khris Middleton. "Just make it easier on [Giannis] and make the game easier for us."

While Brogdon was on trial and shot before tip-off, coach Mike Budenholzer noted that he still has to play more 5-on-5 and will be re-evaluated after the game 2.

Adjustments will be made.

It would be foolish to think that Celtics after a game has rained Bucks.

Yes, they implemented their game plan. Yes, their defense was fantastic. Yes, they won big on the road – an experience that only happened once, with a margin of three points, last season. But Boston also blew the doors of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 in the conference finals last season.

Yes, that team didn't have Hayward or point guard Kyrie Irving. Yes, the circumstances were different. But the buoyancy of any Game 1 victory must be based on the fact that, as forward-looking Jaylen Brown noted, there is plenty of basketball left to be played.

"No matter how you pull it up, we must win four games," Brown said. "I don't think we make it feel good before we do it."

If a team deserves the benefits of the doubt, it is the high-flying Bucks that average a league-high 118.1 points along the way to a league-high 60 winner in the normal season. The team also defended defensively during the first 82, and recorded a league-high defensive rating of 104.9.

"We look forward to being better on Tuesday," said Budenholzer.

"We'll just focus on playing better" echo Antetokounmpo. "It was, of course, one of the hardest losses we have ever had, all season, especially at home. We just have to regroup, watch the tape and be ready for Tuesday.

Given Celtic's talent, floundering in Game 2 is not really an option for Bucks, otherwise retired NBA champion Paul Pierce may be right …


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