Through two games, the Boston Celtics have held Giannis Antetokounmpo to 20-of-52 shooting from the field (38.5 percent). For reference, the Greek Freak only shot below that mark seven times during the regular season in 67 games. And while Boston’s offense has been a team effort this year, Ime Udoka decided to stop doubling Antetokounmpo in Game 2 and rested that responsibility with on a single player. As a result, one hero stood above the rest when it came to stopping the six-time All-Star.
Grant Williams guarded Antetokounmpo more than anyone else in Game 2, matching up with him for 5:44 of game time. When guarded by Williams, Antetokounmpo shot 4-of-10 from the field on roughly 31 possessions. The Milwaukee Bucks superstar finished the game with 28 points on 27 shots and was a -11 on the night.
After the contest, Williams spoke to the media about the pride he takes in guarding Antetokounmpo. He noted the team’s adjustment in defensive gameplan and said that it’s just a matter of doing his job:
I view it as guarding him on an island. Where it’s just you and him, and you have to do your job. And for us, that was kind of how we viewed it for this game, to see how it will go… You have to kind of hunker down and, and trust in the work that you’ve done, and do your best to contain one of the best players in the world.
Williams’ hard-nosed defense was well-received by the TNT broadcast crew. At one point on an Antetokounmpo drive, Brian Anderson even proclaimed, “you can’t run through Grant Williams”:
Boston’s physical defense was met with even more physicality by the Bucks. By the end of the game, both teams were battling back and forth, ramming each other in the paint. Williams credited the Bucks for their physical play and willingness to leave it all out on the court:
When it comes to that, this is one of the most competitive teams you play in the league. And they have guys down the line that you have the utmost respect for because of that. Giannis, Bobby (Portis), guys like that, they approach basketball as if it’s life dependent. And those are the ones you’d love playing against because it brings more out of you.
The third-year forward has been on a tear throughout the postseason. During Boston’s sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, he guarded Kevin Durant more than anyone outside of Jayson Tatum. In the 13:05 he spent guarding Durant, he held the Nets star to 6-of-20 shooting, including 0-of-4 from deep, and forced five turnovers.
But Williams hasn’t just been great on the defensive end. In Game 2, he also managed to notch a career-high in points, scoring 21 on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 6-of-9 from three-point range. When asked about this and the team’s offensive improvements from Game 1, Williams credited Boston’s ball movement:
It’s just about making the right reads. Making the right play. In the first game, we did a kind of a poor job, just getting rushed, kind of forcing shots up. If the first three that we saw that was open we kind of we shot no matter if there was three people flying at us. So tonight, we just knew that the more we moved it, the more opportunity it would be open.
After totaling 18 assists in Game 1, that number jumped to 28 for Boston in Game 2, a big reason behind that was their three-point shooting. The Celtics shot 20-of-43 (46.5 percent) from deep in Game 2, punishing Milwaukee’s defensive gameplan.
Boston will now head to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4 of the series with things all tied up at one apiece. Antetokounmpo and his team will undoubtedly be thinking up ways to get around Williams and Al Horford, but until they prove they can, the Celtics can keep up with what they’ve been doing.
Game 3 will be this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST on ABC.