Boston Celtics

NBA Playoffs 2019: Al Horford on guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo: 'Our focus was to make it tough on him every time.'

The Boston Celtics took Game 1 on the road over the Milwaukee Bucks and Al Horford's play was the centre of attention.

The Celtics' big man brought his A-game, posting one of his best offensive performances of the playoffs while playing a key role in making things difficult for Giannis Antetokounmpo.

TAKEAWAYS: Celtics cruise to Game 1 road win in Milwaukee

Horford scored a 2019 playoff-high 20 points, shooting an efficient 8-for-16 from the field while converting three of his five 3-point attempts. His play on the offence was consistent and impressive, but it was his performance on the defensive end that has everyone talking.

Horford held Antetokounmpo to a 7-for-21 clip from the field with all three of his blocked shots coming on attempts from the MVP-candidate.

The Celtics outscored the Bucks by 26 points with Giannis on the court - his second-worst +/- of the season - and though it is a team effort in defending him, Horford handled the bulk of that load and succeeded in a big way.

But in a very Al Horford manner, he credited the team's defence to their success on The Greek Freak as opposed to his own.

"We came in very focused and locked in on the things we wanted to do as a group," Horford stated in his post-game press conference. "Our focus was to make sure we made it tough on him every time. That all our guys on different times were on him, involved in the play, and that he had to earn everything he got and we did a very good job on that."

Celtics' head coach Brad Stevens wasn't going to let Horford give away all the credit though, "We've said all year you can't overstate Al Horford's importance to our team."

This is something that coach Stevens mentions often, and he's not wrong.

Antetokounmpo had one of the best field goal percentages in the league this season, converting shots 57.8 percent of the time. In Game 1, his 14 misses were uncharacteristic and that credit falls on the defence for making things difficult for him every time he got in the painted area.

If you take away his impressive 3-for-5 shooting from the perimeter, Antetokounmpo was an ugly 4-for-16 (25.0 percent) on 2-pointers, significantly worse than his 64.1 percent 2-point field goal percentage for the season.

And even when the help defence was late and the Celtics were forced to foul, Giannis went 5-for-10 from the free throw line.

"He was the Al Horford we all know and love," teammate Gordon Hayward told the media.

The Celtics made a statement to get this series started but it's far from over, and Horford will have to continue this high level of play to keep the league's potential Most Valuable Player relatively quiet.

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