Antetokounmpo has candid reaction to Bucks' blowout loss vs. Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Beginning with Game 6 of their second-round series last season, the Celtics have won four of the last five matchups in this rivalry. Boston closed out its 2022-23 season series versus Milwaukee with a 41-point beatdown at Fiserv Forum on Thursday night.
The Celtics led by 28 points at halftime en route to a 140-99 win. The game was never close.
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Boston's average margin of victory against Milwaukee in three matchups this season was 18.7 points. The Celtics' only loss to the Bucks came when Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Marcus Smart all didn't play. And yet the Celtics still took the Bucks to overtime in that Valentine's Day game.
Celtics 139-118 on Dec. 25 in Boston
Bucks 131-125 on Feb. 14 in Milwaukee
Celtics 140-99 on March 30 in Milwaukee
Clearly, the Celtics are not afraid of the Bucks and play with a high level of confidence against them.
How concerned is Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo about another potential playoff matchup versus the Celtics?
"We know what the deal is," Antetokounmpo told reporters Thursday night. "It’s not hard to understand. If you're not focused, if you don’t play hard, they’re gonna kick our ass. Simple as that. They did it tonight, won by 40. If you're not locked in and don't play hard, and if you don't go out there and make it tough for them, they're gonna kick our ass. Simple as that. There’s no level of concern. It’s a fact.
“So now you have this in your head, and it’s up to us to see how we’re gonna deal with it. Are we going to play the same way? If we play the same way, we'll have the same outcome. We've gotta change some stuff. We've gotta compete. We've gotta have some pride. Hopefully we can do that, and if we do, we'll have a chance to win."
Antetokounmpo also needs to play better against the Celtics for the Bucks to have a chance at beating them in the playoffs.
The Celtics have defended Antetokounmpo well. He has shot just 42.7 percent versus them this season. That's his second-worst shooting percentage among opponents he's played multiple times in 2022-23. He also tallies fewer points, rebounds and assists per game versus the Celtics compared to his season averages.
The Bucks are still likely to finish as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed and secure homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. But unless the Bucks can figure out some adjustments to slow down the Celtics, home court might not matter if these teams meet again in May.