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BOSTON — Celtics coach Brad Stevens has a simple way of defending The Freak as Boston opens its first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday at TD Garden.
“We’ll have to guard him with everybody on our team [url=http://www.giantscheapstore.com/ereck-flowers-jersey-cheap]Ereck Flowers Jersey[/url] ,” Stevens said when talking about the challenge of handling Giannis Antetokounmpo. “I trust Al (Horford) to guard any position. He can really move his feet, he’s got great size and length, (and) his attention to detail is excellent.
“That said, it’s not on one person to guard Giannis. We have to throw a lot of different bodies at him.”
Simple enough, right?
The injury-riddled Celtics, the second seed facing a seven in the first round, split four games with the Bucks during the regular season. Antetokounmpo, who averaged 26.9 points, 10 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game overall, was even more potent against Boston.
Against the Celtics, a team known for its perimeter defense but not so much inside, which is where Antetokounmpo does most of his damage, he went for 33.5 points [url=http://www.raiderscheapstore.com/marcus-gilchrist-jersey-cheap]Marcus Gilchrist Jersey[/url] , 10.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
On April 3, he had 29 points, 11 boards, six assists and two blocked shots as the Bucks defeated the Celtics in Milwaukee.
“Their floor is open in transition when (Giannis) is at the four, the five, when he used to play the three, when he’s played the one,” Stevens said. “He’s a monster in transition.
“When I look at their team, they don’t have a guy at each position that’s not a good transition player. (Tony) Snell makes shots in transition, (Khris) Middleton makes shots in transition, (Jabari) Parker and Giannis coming downhill, (Eric) Bledsoe coming downhill.”
Bledsoe, rescued from the obscurity that is the Phoenix Suns [url=http://www.saintscheapstore.com/andrus-peat-jersey-cheap]Andrus Peat Jersey[/url] , returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 (with the Los Angeles Clippers) and hopes his point guard play can lead the Bucks to their first playoff success since 2001.
“I’ve grown a lot,” Bledsoe told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “From coming off the bench to playing in Phoenix to now, I think I got a lot (more) mature in a lot of ways.
“Knowing how to run plays in the half court, knowing when to get my teammates involved and when to attack. Just a lot of things. Knowing when to be calm when teams go on a run.”
Bledsoe pleaded his way out of Phoenix in a deal that sent now-Celtic Greg Monroe and two protected draft picks to Phoenix. Milwaukee had to finish in the top six in the conference to protect this year’s pick but was blown out by Philadelphia on the final night of the season to fall to seventh. While it looked like the Suns would get the pick, the Bucks learned the pick is theirs because of a tiebreaker.
And Bledsoe is thriving.
“Bled’s huge for this team and we’ve been very consistent with that,” said Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty, who replaced the fired Jason Kidd during the season.
The Celtics, who lost Gordon Hayward in the first quarter of the first game of the season, have also lost Kyrie Irving and battling rookie Daniel Theis for the season. Defensive sparkplug Marcus Smart is out for this series after thumb surgery, but Stevens had the rest of his group ready to go (“all 11, yes”). He talked of an eight- or nine-man rotation but said fouls and injuries could change everything.
“It’s a battle. Nobody wants to go home. It’s straight-out war,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier, who has grown into a far more important role with Irving and Smart missing.
Game 2 of the series is in Boston on Tuesday night before shifting to Milwaukee. Both teams have won on the other’s court this season.
Two weeks into the Miami Dolphins' offseason practice regimen [url=http://www.chiefscheapstore.com/dee-ford-jersey-cheap]Dee Ford Jersey[/url] , first-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick's running tally of interceptions is underway.
"Have I been counting them? Every DB counts them," Fitzpatrick said with a laugh after Tuesday's workout. "I've got two picks and a couple of pass breakups. Just doing my job."
Contact drills won't begin until training camp, but early indications are the Dolphins used the 11th overall pick wisely when they selected Fitzpatrick.
The safety from Alabama said he's not fazed by reports Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wanted to trade down on draft night rather than pick Fitzpatrick.
"I heard about it," Fitzpatrick said. "He's a businessman. He's going to see the business side of everything. This is extra motivation to prove I'm a worthy pick and deserve to be here."
The front office wanted a playmaker to upgrade a defense that ranked fourth-worst in points allowed last season, and so far Fitzpatrick looks as if he'll make Miami better.
"He has done a good job," coach Adam Gase said. "He has gotten his hands on a lot of balls. He seems to be all over the place. He has a great motor and a great work ethic. You can tell he takes this very seriously and puts everything he has into this."
The Dolphins' investment goes beyond a first-round choice. Fitzpatrick signed a $16.44 million, four-year deal last week.
But he said he didn't celebrate the contract, and doesn't have any plans for the money besides buying a place to live.
"Anytime you see your hard work paying off, it's a good feeling," he said. "But you've got to keep telling yourself it's not the end goal. I didn't come here just to be a first-round pick. I wanted to be a great player here and establish a great legacy."
Fitzpatrick said the Dolphins are dividing his practice time evenly among the strong safety, free safety and nickel back positions. He said he doesn't have a preference and is happy to move around.
"They trust me to do that," Fitzpatrick said. "They're not putting too much on me, but they know they can put a lot on me."
Pro Bowler Reshad Jones is certain to start at one safety spot [url=http://www.saintscheapstore.com/thomas-morstead-jersey-cheap]Thomas Morstead Jersey[/url] , and veteran safety T.J. McDonald also returns after starting the final eight games last season. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke may decide to play both along with Fitzpatrick at times, and June is a time for experimenting.
General manager Chris Grier has compared Fitzpatrick to a Swiss army knife because of his versatility. And wherever Fitzpatrick lines up, he's making his presence felt.
"He is flying around at practice," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "He plays aggressive and plays fast, and that's what you want to see out of a DB."
Fitzpatrick played for Nick Saban at Alabama, which may be why he hasn't found the demands of the NFL too daunting so far. In fact, the coaching styles of Saban and Gase are similar, he said.
"They're both very passionate coaches," Fitzpatrick said. "They're both real hands-on. The only difference is coach Saban yells a bit more."
At Alabama, Fitzpatrick had a school-record four interception returns for touchdowns. He's confident about quickly improving his professional pick total.
"That's going to keep going up," Fitzpatrick said. "As I get more and more comfortable, I'll make more and more plays."
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