Why Grant Williams vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo could decide Celtics-Bucks series

Have the Celtics found their answer for Giannis in Grant Williams? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON — At first blush, the strategy seems counterintiutive: stick a 6-foot-6 role player on the 6-foot-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo and ask him to guard one of the top five players in the league 1-on-1.

But that’s exactly what Celtics head coach Ime Udoka did with Grant Williams at TD Garden on Tuesday night — with impressive results.

Williams and Al Horford took turns matching up solo with the Milwaukee Bucks superstar for the majority of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, with Williams carrying most of the load.

Antetokounmpo’s stat line through one half? Five points on 2 of 12 shooting.

Celtics-Bucks takeaways: Jaylen Brown takes charge in huge Game 2 win

Giannis eventually got his, scoring 23 second-half points to finish with 28 on the night. But those were mostly empty calories, as Boston’s first-half work on the NBA MVP finalist helped the team establish a double-digit lead it never relinquished en route to a 109-86 victory.

“We talked about guarding him a little bit more 1-on-1. We feel like we have the defensive guys to do it,” Udoka said of the Celtics’ defensive game plan for Antetokounmpo. “Obviously he came out extra-aggressive in the second half, but to score 28 on 27 shots, we were defending well initially.

“Grant’s a big part of that. His versatility is something I talk about. He’s like a mini Al out there. His versatility to be able to switch onto guards and guard (Giannis) 1-on-1 in the post and be physical and frustrate him to some extent is what we need with a player like that.

“That’s one of Grant’s main strengths is guarding guys like that.”

Williams was by far Boston’s best defender on Antetokounmpo, staying solid on Giannis’ post-ups and forcing him into tough fadeaway jumpers or offensive fouls. The player who wanted to be called “The Batman” for his work on Nikola Jokic earlier this season reminded his coaches once again why he can be trusted in isolation against elite offensive players.

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“I view it as guarding him on an island where it’s just you and him,”…

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