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Mailbag answers: Celtics vs. Bucks preview edition

Giannis, Giannis, and more Giannis.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

I opened up the mailbag for questions and you delivered. Here are my responses:


Did the defense we saw the Celtics play against Durant provide any kind of “blueprint” for how they can/should defend Giannis (assuming, as I expect, the Bucks win that series)? Obviously, Durant and Giannis are different players, but the physicality and multiple defenders they threw at Durant would seem to be a good strategy to employ against Giannis.

As you mentioned, they are completely different players. I do think that with any star player, it takes a village to contain them. So I’m sure we’ll be throwing multiple looks at him. This is something we’ll cover more in depth on the site (multiple times, I’m sure) but any way the Celtics can make him uncomfortable is on the table. Maybe that means “forming a wall” or switching shorter players on him, sending him to the line, or just the usual switching and hedging with a roster full of plus defenders. He’s still going to get his points, but (like with Durant in game 4) if you can make them difficult, you can give yourself enough room to capitalize on any other mistakes.


Dr. Clark,

How long can C’s go further in the bracket with the inconsistency they are showing on 3’s? Only in the third game were over 40%. Is this enough?

Not a doctor and never played one on TV. But I would love one of those honorary doctorates that universities sometimes give out. All the glory and none of the studying? Sign me up. But I digress.

Here’s the thing about the Bucks (that I’m sure you’ll hear a lot about). Their defensive strategy gives up a lot of 3 point looks. So the Celtics will have to make their shots to give themselves a chance. Hopefully the more open looks they get, the better rhythm they’ll be in for those shots. Also, you might see a little more of Payton Pritchard coming up. Who knows, maybe even a sprinkling of Aaron Nesmith or Sam Hauser.


how long do you think Rob Williams will continue to have limited minutes? Obviously Horford has had success guarding Giannis in years past but Al was younger and Giannis was less skilled. Do you think the combo of Horford, Rob Will, and maybe some Grant will be able to limit Giannis? We will not be able to bully him like we did KD

Given the extra week of rest, I would hope that Rob Williams will be mostly back to a normal workload. Of course, I’m not a doctor (see answer above) so I’d imagine they’ll do whatever is right for him.

Agree that Rob will be critical to slowing down Giannis. Not necessarily at the point of attack, but as a back-line help defender that can (maybe) match his athleticism.


Against Brooklyn we hunted out their small guards for mismatches with great success. Is there anybody on the Bucks that we can try to isolate or will we go back to primarily a ball movement offense to create open shots?

I feel like Wes Matthews has lost a step or two, so they may pick on him on occasion. But I think they will try to emphasize ball movement to generate open 3 point shots and maybe even open up driving lanes for our wings.

Brook Lopez is an excellent drop defender, but if you can force him to react to the ball and get Rob Williams jumping behind him, there’s not much he can do about that.


Which non Giannis, Holliday or Lopez player do the Celtics need to limit to beat the Bucks?

I have a feeling fans are going to get very annoyed at Grayson Allen, Bobby Portis, and maybe even Pat Connaughton. Each has the potential to feast Bruce-Brown-style while our attention is focused on Giannis and Jrue.


Hi Jeff,

Near the end of the regular season we were told that both Brown and Tatum had nagging hamstring problems. Tatum seems fine now, but Brown is admittedly still having trouble. He is playing well, but doesn’t seem to be getting enough lift from his legs for his usual accuracy on 3 point attempts. Do you think Ime might want to consider limiting his minutes somewhat to keep his condition from deteriorating further?

Again, not a doctor, but I hope the week of rest will do them good. At this time of year, everyone is banged up on some level and it is up to them to both manage that and communicate with the Celtics staff when it is limiting them or potentially putting them at risk (something they can only determine by working closely with the training staff).


Beyond Theis, Pritchard, Batman, and Derrick White, who do you think will make a contribution in the semis?

As I mentioned above, if they need more shooting, they could tap Aaron Nesmith or Sam Hauser, but I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody outside the top 8 or 9 guys gets any meaningful minutes.

Fox Burrow Flew

Hi Jeff,

Giannis’s career playoff percentage at the charity stripe is .616, compared to his regular season percentage of .718. Will Celtics try and exploit this by employing a hack the Greek approach at given points in this series?

Small sample size, but he’s shooting .652 in the playoffs thus far. The hacking strategy could be used situationally, but in last year’s playoffs he was able to make teams pay for that.

I think it is more of an aggregate thing. Meaning, we’ll defend him as well as we can but if we have to foul him to prevent an open look, we’ll live with that (just make sure he can’t finish through that contact and get the and-1).

Marcus Banks 11

Do you think Jayson Tatum is better than Paul Pierce?

This hurts my heart so much because I grew up watching The Truth. Let’s just take the easy way out and say that Pierce has a more accomplished resume but Tatum has a better upside and the potential to pass him in the not-too-distant future. I feel like that’s a good sidestep compromise.

Fly Around

Do you think the Celtics could have “given the keys” to Marcus Smart a few years ago and jump started our success earlier? If not, what in MS’s recent development has put him in a position to thrive this year?

Hindsight is always 20/20 but perhaps they should have let Smart take over as point guard instead of jumping in with Kemba Walker (a move that I was very excited for at the time).

To be fair though, so much weirdness happened over the last couple of years that I’m not sure if that particular sliding doors moment would have mattered as much as (waives hand generally) everything else that happened.


Jeff, what championship team do these C’s remind you of the most? 2019 Raptors? 2004 Pistons? 1989 Pistons? One of Duncan’s Spurs? Other?

I hadn’t thought of it before, but the 2019 Raptors is actually a pretty good analog. Tatum and Brown are Kawhi and Siakam (kinda sorta). Smart has always been similar to Kyle Lowry. You’ve even got Al Horford in a similar role and point in his career as Marc Gasol.

The Raps were more about Kawhi first and spread the ball around to everyone else second. While Brown is a better scorer than anyone beyond Kawhi on that roster.

Defensively both teams benefit from having a core of players that have been together for a long time and a great gameplan by a coach without a lot of head coaching experience.

Let’s hope the end result is the same (without the nerve wracking bouncing ball incident).

Thanks for the questions everyone!

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