Boston Celtics

Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Bucks to perfunctory sweep of Pistons, setting stage for Celtics rematch

Antetokounmpo’s closing effort was nothing short of MVP caliber: Taking charge of a tight game at halftime, he barreled to the hoop for 20 free throw attempts and tallied a playoff career-high 41 points.

Even their franchise players, both game-changing offensive forces, exist as opposites: Antetokounmpo pummels the basket but struggles as a three-point shooter, while Irving is comfortable pulling up from beyond the arc but rarely goes above the rim.

Midway through last year’s playoff series, Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said Antetokounmpo was “impossible to guard.” The task has only gotten more difficult, now that Milwaukee’s centerpiece is fresh thanks to careful minutes management and flanked by veteran floor-spacers Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic and Ersan Ilyasova.

Antetokounmpo dished out punishment to virtually every player on Detroit’s roster in Game 4, reaching to dunk on Thon Maker, soaring to block Ish Smith, swatting Griffin, and forcing his way through Andre Drummond for an and-one.

The midair improvisation recalled Michael Jordan’s “spectacular move” against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals, and Antetokounmpo managed to finish the circus shot while drawing a foul.

Boston’s defensive success will hinge on its ability to limit Antetokounmpo’s transition opportunities, to make him work for every shot he gets near the basket area, and to encourage him to shoot from the outside.

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