Thon Maker knows a thing or two about Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The former Bucks forward was traded to the Pistons in February in a 3-team deal that saw Stanley Johnson sent to New Orleans and Nikola Mirotic to the Bucks. Naturally, it will be a new experience for the 7’1, 221 lb Maker facing his former teammate in a playoff series.
“It’s not a one-man effort, you got to have the whole team locked in,” Maker said. “He commands a lot. He sees the double-team, picks that apart. He’s a high IQ player, so you’re not going over there thinking you’re going to guard him one-on-one, and strategically, you got to know what you got to do as a team.”
Assistant coach Sean Sweeney, now with Detroit, was a former assistant with Milwaukee. Maker recalled the practices that he’d be matched up against Antetokounmpo.
“Sweeney tried to make us kill each other,” Maker said. “Most every time it was on reads, off of jabs, a little bit in transition, but most of the times it was a stationary-type thing. Either I deny you get a catch, or you deny I get a catch.
“I’ll be on him, but it’s a team effort. You can’t let your egos get the best of you and say, ‘I know how to do it, I’m going to take him.’ You got to be smart with it. Coaching staff watch millions of clips. They know tendencies. You got to take advice from them and teammates as well, who’ve been through guarding him.”
The Bucks swept the Pistons in all four games they played in the regular season. According to head coach Dwane Casey, limiting turnovers against the Bucks would go a long way in reversing those fortunes.
“Huge,” coach Dwane Casey said. “That was our bugaboo in the four games. They’re 1.31 (points) in converting off turnovers. If you turn it over, it’s almost guaranteed a point, point-and-a-half in transition, so taking care of the ball is huge.”