Mike DePrisco: I can’t get over how some people don’t think Al Horford is a fantastic player. The way he has guarded multiple positions tonight makes you forget the fact that he’s a center.
Offensively, I like how Horford has been aggressive since the opening tip. It allowed him to keep his rhythm throughout the game to where he was hitting big shots late. Horford’s passing and playmaking will be there for him. I’d rather have him look for his shot early so he can really make defenses pay for over-playing him.
Greg Cassoli: Jaylen Brown just missed a monster transition dunk over Giannis Antetokounpmo in the first half. It would have been impressive regardless of the whom he was challenging, but given Giannis' length, athleticism, and defensive prowess, Brown was liable to tear the fabric of space and time had he actually finished.
It's silly to celebrate something that almost happened, but didn't, so we'll praise Brown's confidence instead. I love that he was willing to go right at one of the most intimidating shot blockers the NBA has to offer. Fearlessness is a great quality to have (just ask Russell Westbrook), and Brown didn't just display his belief in himself on that single dunk attempt. He continued to pull the trigger on open looks after an abysmal start to the game shooting the ball. It paid off in the long-run, and he helped the Celtics to build a lead with two big triples in the second half.
Andrew Doxy: In the second half, Marcus Smart came in to establish discipline. Even though his shot selection was erratic at times, there was a clear difference between him running the offense and Terry Rozier/Shane Larkin in the same role. We got better shots in general, and of course, the defense was consistently getting stops. Adding Smart back to the bench will help tremendously with the team’s balance on both ends.
Bill Sy: Andrew has a great piece coming out later this morning about all the little things that the Celtics do to win games. It’s stuff that doesn’t necessarily find its way into the box score, but their sum contribution could mean the difference between an L and a W.
Last night, Al Horford was the headline. He finished with a 27-9-4 stat line and his defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo was again stifling. The early MVP favorite still put in a near triple double effort with 28 points, but the Celtics forced him to take long-2’s and contested shots near the key. Here’s The Alphabet’s shot chart:
It wasn’t just Horford either. Semi Ojeleye player fourteen minutes in Milwaukee. He missed both threes that he took, but it was his ability to stay in front of Antetokounmpo that made his playing time invaluable. Without Marcus Morris, the Celtics have needed another big off the bench, particularly defensively. Daniel Theis started against the Bucks and Baynes came off the bench to check Greg Monroe, but it was Ojeleye’s D that really tied the patchwork front court together.
The 6’7 Ojeleye is four inches shorter than Antetokounmpo, but he’s got quick feet to stay in front and strength to not allow him to turn the corner or back him down.