Which Celtics should defend Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo? Here’s what stats say

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston’s coverage of Celtics-Bucks, which begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

No one “stops” Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 2020 NBA MVP front-runner is going to get his.

Some players are better at defending the Milwaukee Bucks star than others, however. Celtics wing Semi Ojeleye, for example, found a niche during the 2019 NBA playoffs as Boston’s go-to “Giannis stopper,” using his strength and athleticism to hold his ground against the 6-foot-11, 242-pound Antetokounmpo.

The Celtics will see Antetokounmpo and the Bucks right off the bat in the NBA bubble, facing Milwaukee in their “seeding round” opener Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

So, who will the C’s call on to defend Giannis in what Boston hopes could be an Eastern Conference Finals preview? As a refresher, here’s a look at which Celtics players have defended Antetokounmpo the most in the teams’ two meetings this season, and how effective they’ve been.

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Stats Corner Giannis

Ojeleye and Marcus Smart have done the heavy lifting against Antetokounmpo this season, with Ojeleye faring the best by limiting the Bucks star to 3-of-9 shooting.

Based solely on shooting percentage, though, Boston’s most effective Giannis stopper is … Jayson Tatum, who has held Antetokounmpo to 1-of-5 shooting in two games.

That’s a small sample size, but it’s a testament to Tatum’s development on the defensive end. The 22-year-old ranks ninth in the NBA in Defensive Win Shares this season and has become a solid defender while blossoming into an All-Star on the offensive end.

Tatum is the Celtics’ best offensive player, so they may not want to expend his energy by matching him up with Antetokounmpo on defense. That means you’ll likely see some combination of Ojeleye and Smart handle Giannis duties on Friday night.

But if a trip to the NBA Finals is on the line and Tatum finds himself guarding Antetokounmpo, the numbers suggest he can hold his own.

Which Celtics should defend Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo? Here’s what stats say originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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