While we all celebrated the return of basketball demigod Marcus Smart, Brad Stevens was preparing to blow our minds with another wild adjustment.
Starting Semi Ojeleye.
Statistically, Semi is among the league’s worst offensive players. While I fully believe in his offensive skills eventually blooming, the fact remains that he has not been great on that end.
He has, though, displayed a solid defensive acumen with the foot speed to hang with quicker wing players and the combat muscles to stand his ground against charging bulls.
The latter vindicated Stevens’ gambit as Ojeleye flashed enough solid defense to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo moderately at bay whenever they matched up.
According to NBA.com, Ojeleye matched up with Giannis on 40 possessions. Giannis only took five shots, made three, and had three assists.
Here’s a look at the shots Giannis got.
Not the best start in the world. Ojeleye slid too far to cut Bledsoe off and forced Jaylen Brown into more than just a tag. Brown had to react hard to the pass and Middelton blew by him, forcing Semi to cut off the baseline. Nice pass by Middleton, nice finish by Giannis. This wasn’t good. But it gets better.
This, on the surface, doesn’t look like much. However, Ojeleye seems to surprise Giannis with is his ability to slide over and be square in front of him. Giannis ends up taking a long two, which is the absolute shot the Celtics want him to take because he’s shooting in the low 30 percent range on those shots. He made this one… oh well.
I love this one. Giannis is trying to back Ojeleye down and that’s just not happening. This is where Semi’s strength is on full display. This is also important because Giannis now knows he can’t out-muscle Semi (who can, really?) and he will have to work hard to out-quick Ojeleye as well. This is probably why Giannis resorted to this shot…
Sometimes guys like Giannis are going to make ridiculous shots but let’s be clear again… this is a shot the Celtics will live with. Giannis did not turn the corner… he did not wreak havoc. He took a step-back mid-range jumper. Even Bucks fans would say that’s not the most ideal shot in the Bucks offense.
Finally Giannis gets a drive, but he has to lower the shoulder and try so hard that he puts himself of balance. Semi slides his feet well, which is really important because Giannis is hoping to create some contact here as a way to bounce off a defender and create separation. The Bucks got lucky that a great play and great block ended up back in their hands.
The Celtics don’t want Ojeleye on Giannis all the time, but his strength and speed allow him to switch onto Giannis and do a decent job. If the Bucks get these looks in Game 6, it’ll probably go well for the Celtics.