Boston Celtics HC Ime Udoka sees this big as Giannis Antetokounmpo stopper

The Boston Celtics defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in the postseason back during their magical 2018 run that almost resulted in a trip to the NBA Finals. They also faltered a year later in 2019, but we’ll chalk that up to Kyrie Irving’s burning desire to never wear a Cs uniform again as the culprit there.

Let’s review that 2018 series as we eagerly anticipate Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between these two teams, though. It went seven games, despite Boston having the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and Milwaukee still being years away (and a Jrue Holiday short) of becoming championship material.

The primary reason? Khris Middleton carved out his reputation as a Boston Celtics killer, thrice going for a game-high scoring total. Unfortunately for the Bucks, he will be missing the entire second round of the playoffs with an MCL sprain.

The other reason? Giannis Antetokounmpo was great, but not all-time great like he was in 2021. Al Horford is the man to credit for that, providing switchability on the perimeter and a sturdy frame that held up on the rim runs made by the ‘Greek Freak’.

Current Celtics HC Ime Udoka wasn’t around back then, but he opened up about how he sees Horford as a crucial piece in this year’s postseason when guarding Antetokounmpo:

“That versatility that he’s shown all year is the benefit against a guy like Antetokounmpo. Obviously, (Antetokounmpo) plays perimeter base, but can post up as well, and that’s why Al’s been so valuable to us this year. Being able to guard both, he has the size to take the hits and you gotta have some physicality there. So that’s the big thing, obviously, with Al over the last few years.”

Udoka went as far as to say Horford is ‘tailor-made’ for the 2x MVP:

“We’ve talked about how excited he was to come back to Boston, came in great shape and has been one of our most consistent guys throughout the year. So age-wise, I think he’s taking a lot of pride in coming back this year, taking on the challenge and like we say with our whole team, being a very good defensive unit in general, and Al allows us to do that with his versatility. So he’s almost tailor-made for a guy like Giannis.”

The Boston Celtics will be battling a big Bucks frontline

Not only will Horford be dealing with Antetokounmpo trying to feast at the rim, but he will have to be ready to close out on the Bucks’ other two starting bigs, Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis, as they aim to stretch the floor and open up lanes for the ‘Greek Freak’, Holiday, and the other Milwaukee guards.

It’ll be a test the 35-year-old returned to Boston to pass on the way to Banner 18.