Celtics' first-round matchup vs Bucks means get ready for the Giannis show

A. Sherrod Blakely
NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON – Giannis Antetokounmpo.  

Get used to seeing and hearing his name, Celtics fans.

Because this first-round series between Boston and Milwaukee will be all about Milwaukee's do-it-all All-Star. 

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And that's what makes this first-round series against the Bucks a scary one for Boston:


SUNDAY, APRIL 15: Game 1 at Boston, 1 p.m.
TUESDAY, APRIL 17: Game 2 at Boston, 8 p.m.
FRIDAY, APRIL 20: Game 3 at Milwaukee, 9:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, APRIL 22: Game 4 at Milwaukee, 1 p.m.
xTUESDAY, APRIL 24: Game 5 at Boston, TBA
xTHURSDAY, APRIL 26: Game 6 at Milwaukee, TBA
xSATURDAY, APRIL 28: Game 7 at Boston, TBA

x -- if necessary

When discussions center around the NBA's best young talent, Antetokounmpo figures prominently in such conversations. 

But as talented he is, the Greek Freak has yet to lead the Bucks out of the first round of the playoffs. 

The opportunity to do that has not been any greater than it is this year against the Celtics. 

Boston comes into this first-round series as banged up as the Celtics have been all year. 

They will be without their top scorer in Kyrie Irving as well as their best defender in Marcus Smart, although Smart is on track to be back by the end of this month which would put his return close to the end of the first round, or early in the second. 

Boston will also be missing Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) as well as Gordon Hayward (ankle) who has been out for all but the first five minutes of the season.  

Boston is as vulnerable to be knocked off as any top seed in the playoffs that opens the postseason at home. 

But as we've seen this season, a vulnerable Celtics team is a dangerous club that will be a tough out regardless of who the opposing team is.

And as you look at the Bucks roster, you see the Greek Freak is surrounded by talented players like Eric Bledsoe, Jabari Parker and promising young players like Thon Maker and reigning rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon. 

You see all that talent and then … you see the 44-38 record. 

And then you're reminded about how they did not show up – at all – in a 130-95 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

More disturbing was how the Bucks began that game on the short end of a 46-18 start, with most of those early minutes going to their regulars.

"You lose by 30, 40 it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth," Antetokounmpo told reporters after Wednesday's loss to Philadelphia. "Got to go back, get better, work on your game and hopefully when the time is right in the playoff time you can bring your A-game."

And that's what you're afraid of if you're the Celtics. 

At some point, Antetokounmpo is going to have a breakthrough playoff series and lead his team past the first round for the first time since 2001. 

And if there was ever a time when that goal seemed possible, it's now. 

Brad Stevens is well-versed on the challenges that defending a player like Antetokounmpo presents to an opposing defense. 

Look for Stevens to throw lots of bodies at him, ranging from the team's stretch big man Al Horford, to versatile wing man Jaylen Brown in addition to forward Semi Ojeleye who will all likely be matched up against Antetokounmpo.

"His ability to get downhill in transition, downhill off action and his ability to guard multiple positions and create chaos with his speed," Brad Stevens said earlier this season regarding Antetokounmpo. "He's a really good player." 

A good player who seems due for a breakout postseason that could be coming sooner than most, the Celtics included, are prepared for.



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