NBA playoffs 2019: Al Horford explains Celtics’ plan to slow down Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Celtics were focused on slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks star scored 22 points but was limited to 7-of-21 shooting in his team’s 112-90 loss to Boston in Game 1 of the teams’ second round series. Al Horford, who spent time guarding Antetokounmpo, was asked about the Celtics’ plan defensively after the win.   

“He’s such a great player,” Horford told reporters after the game. “Our focus was to make sure that we made it tough on him every time. All of our guys, at different times, were on him and involved in the play. Just making sure he earned everything he got. And I felt like we did a really good job of that.”

Antetokounmpo, considered by many to be the front-runner for the MVP award, averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in the regular season.

“We came in very focused,” Horford said. “Locked in on the things we wanted to do as a group. We knew that we were going to have to play a very solid game and I felt like our focus level was good from the beginning. We just continued to stick together throughout the game.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said after the loss he expects Antetokounmpo to bounce back quickly.

“As great as he’s been this year, he hasn’t been perfect every night,” Budenholzer told reporters. “He’s hard on himself, so there’s probably (going to be) some point I’m just going to put my arms around him and tell him, ‘You’re going to be great.’ He’s been so good so many nights.

“Credit to Boston, they’re doing some things well. But, I think Giannis will play better.”

Horford excelled on the offensive end, as well. He finished with 20 points while adding 11 rebounds and three assists. As a team, Boston shot 54% from the field and 41.9% from 3-point range against top-seeded Milwaukee.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens praised Horford’s performance when he met with reporters after the game.

“We’ve said all year you can’t overstate Al Horford’s importance to our team,” Stevens said, via The Athletic.

The Celtics and Bucks will meet in Game 2 at the Fiserv Forum on Tuesday.