The New Zealand-born big man certainly seems to whenever he squares off against the Milwaukee Bucks, anyway. Giannis tried to erase all trace of Baynes twice in an eight-day span back in October. He tried to do it twice more in December. And now, with the Bucks facing the Celtics in the first round of the 2018 playoffs, Antetokounmpo has brought his vendetta into the postseason, scaling the 6-foot-10, 260-pound Baynes and seeking to reduce him to rubble during Game 3 of the opening-round series in Milwaukee on Friday:
I mean … damn, Giannis.
Antetokounmpo’s latest attempt to make Baynes the wrong kind of famous serves as a fairly apt summation of how things unfolded at BMO Harris Bradley Center on Friday night. The Celtics came in, took their places, and basically stood there while the Bucks went about the business of taking their heads off.
Milwaukee bounced back from a pair of series-opening defeats by annihilating the Celtics from nearly the opening tip, taking control of the game with an early 21-6 run, limiting the C’s to just 12 first-quarter points on 2-for-18 shooting, and never looking back from there. The Bucks led by as many as 28 on Friday, cruising to a 116-92 win on the strength of a five-men-on-a-string defensive effort that limited Boston to just 40 percent shooting as a team, inducing the Celtics into missing 16 of 24 3-pointers, and committing 18 turnovers (nine in the first quarter alone) leading to 20 Bucks points.
The Celtics’ series lead now sits at 2-1. The Bucks will have the chance to get even at two wins apiece in a Sunday matinee at 1 p.m. ET.
At many points throughout the season, it was tempting — though overly simplistic — to suggest that the scuffling Bucks were little more than a one-man team, a squad dependent to a staggering degree on MVP-level work from Antetokounmpo to have any prayer of knocking off top-flight competition and making a deep playoff run. In Game 3, though, Giannis didn’t have to do everything — don’t get me wrong: 19 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks is still a lot, but it’s not everything — because he had help when it came time to stare down the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed, rear back and land a haymaker right on Boston’s jaw.
Swingman Khris Middleton, who’s been great all year and was really Giannis’ only reliable lieutenant during Games 1 and 2 in Boston, led the way with 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes of work. Eric Bledsoe tipped the scales of his point-guard matchup with That Guy He’s Never Heard Of, a.k.a. Boston’s Terry Rozier, with a solid 17-point, four-rebound, four-assist outing.
Rozier, for his part, struggled, missing five of his seven shots and committing five turnovers after going without a single one in the first two games. Some of Rozier’s issues likely stemmed from the aggressive and agitating defense of reserve guard Matthew Dellavedova, who logged 16 minutes — one more than he’d totaled since going down with a right ankle sprain on Feb. 4. The Aussie point man harassed Rozier, shot with confidence when the ball swung his way, and moved the rock when it needed to; Delly finished with five points on 2-for-2 shooting, four assists and a rebound.
Jabari Parker finally got more minutes and made the most of them, scoring 17 points on 12 shots while also pulling down five rebounds and wreaking a little defensive havoc, notching two blocks and a steal in 30 minutes off the bench. With starting center John Henson sidelined by a sore back, and fill-in starter Tyler Zeller limited by early foul trouble, Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty reached down his bench and called for second-year big man Thon Maker to take a turn in the middle … and, as he did last year as a rookie against the Toronto Raptors, the intriguing South Sudanese string bean turned in an impressive performance, scoring 14 points on just five field-goal attempts while also grabbing five rebounds and blocking five shots in just 24 minutes of floor time.
All-Star Al Horford led the way for Boston with 16 points and three rebounds. Game 2 hero Jaylen Brown was limited to just 11 points on nine field-goal attempts. Greg Monroe came alive offensively off the Boston bench, scoring 15 points with 12 rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. Ultimately, though, a Celtics team unprepared for the Bucks to start switching defensive assignments on the perimeter to short-circuit penetration and keep the pressure on would-be ball-movers just didn’t have enough in the tank to either score against the rampaging Bucks, or to stop a hard-charging team dead set on proving they belong in this series, and that they can be dangerous to a short-handed but well-drilled Boston squad.
And if you don’t believe the Bucks can be dangerous … well, ask Aron Baynes about that.
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