Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart defend Giannis Antetokounmpo

Pregame Post-Ups: Tall Challenge Looming Tonight for C's

Thursday, Jan. 16 - Celtics at Bucks

Pregame – C's Set To Face Tallest Challenge of the Season

MILWAUKEE – The Boston Celtics are set to face their tallest task of their season thus far when the take the court tonight in Milwaukee, and such is the case both literally and figuratively.

Boston is set to play for the second time in as many nights after falling Wednesday in Boston to the Pistons and arriving at the team hotel in Milwaukee at 2.30 p.m. ET. Now, all they need to do is take the court against the NBA’s top team, and without the services of Jaylen Brown.

Brown injured his right thumb Wednesday night and was ruled out of Thursday’s contest about 90 minutes before tip-off. Brad Stevens said that the team’s medical staff thinks that the injury is just a sprain, but that Brown will undergo further testing Friday at the team’s practice facility.

So, without Brown, the Celtics will now take on the 36-6 Bucks, who have the reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo and are on pace to win 70 games this season. The good news is that they’ve already been victorious amid such a scenario, as they beat the Bucks 116-105 back on Oct. 30 while Brown was out, and Jayson Tatum will return to the lineup tonight. The bad news is that the Bucks are playing at a much higher level now than they were then.

Antetokounmpo is nicknamed the Greek Freak for a very justifiable reason: he is a freak of nature. At 6-foot-11 with muscles upon muscles, he is the biggest hybrid player in the game and is as skilled as many of the NBA’s guards. There is no one like him.

Antetokounmpo enters tonight’s game carrying averages of 30.0 points, 12.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. It is darn near impossible to shut down a player of his caliber, so instead, the Celtics will aim to contain him as much as possible. They accomplished that goal during their early-season victory over the Bucks, during which Antetokounmpo attempted only 13 shots en route to 22 points.

“You have to guard Giannis as a team, so we’re gonna have a bunch of guys on him at different times,” said Brad Stevens. “We’ve got a number of guys we’ve got to throw at him.”

That list begins with Marcus Smart, who will start tonight in place of Brown and was one of Team USA’s primary defenders against Antetokounmpo during this summer’s FIBA World Cup. The list continues with players such as Semi Ojeleye, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis and Gordon Hayward.

The challenge of defeating Milwaukee does not end with containing Antetokounmpo, however. It trickles down to the rest of the Bucks’ roster as well.

“They’re historically great with him,” said Stevens, “and still awfully good when he’s on the bench.”

Milwaukee has four players who are averaging double-figures in the scoring column, and seven who are averaging at least 8.1 points per game. This is a skilled team that plays well regardless of which of its players are on or off the floor.

“This is a special team that they’ve got,” Stevens commented. “It’s awfully hard playing, obviously well coached, they have great talent. I just think they have an incredible feel for the game on both ends of the floor.”

And as such, without Brown, the Celtics are set to face off against the tallest task of their young season – both literally and figuratively.

- Marc D'Amico

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