Bucks

Bucks’ Ailing Offense in Need of Defibrillator

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After two games of the Milwaukee Bucks’ best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinals series with the Brooklyn Nets, it looked like a total mismatch.

The Nets smacked the Bucks by 39 points in Game 2, but the Bucks find themselves back in the series after a grinding 86-83 victory in Game 3 to pull within 2-1. The Deer got virtually nothing offensively from anyone except Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, but eked out a victory.

That is not a recipe for consistent victories against Brooklyn, however.

So what can the Bucks do to build on the Game 3 win? We know adjustments aren’t a strong suit of head coach Mike Budenholzer in past Bucks playoff exits.

Bench Brook?

Many people are calling for Brook Lopez to get a significant reduction in playing time.

I disagree.

The Bucks need to get back to something that was bringing success to the squad– giving the ball to Lopez in the post. The brute size of Lopez isn’t being utilized nearly enough inside.  Bud needs to exploit the mismatch he provides while he plays. If Milwaukee does this, Lopez’s interior points and a better-utilized Jrue Holiday will help the Bucks offense immensely.

Utilizing Lopez on offense differently

The Nets don’t really have a true big– because they haven’t dusted off DeAndre Jordan this series. Nicholas Claxton has size and mobility but has played fewer than 60 career games. The Nets, though, have been getting comfortable playing small and Blake Griffin has entered a time machine and presented problems for the Bucks.

Well it will be tough for Lopez to find someone to guard in some lineups, he can guard Griffin, Claxton or Bruce Brown. But Lopez needs to be taken advantage of offensively. He is bigger and wider than every player the Nets have utilized. Iso-ball needs to be scrapped too– bring back consistent ball movement,

Lopez can screen, roll and post. By doing this the Bucks could create a dilemma. Would Brooklyn let Lopez work on a much smaller defender? Or double and risk allowing an open 3?

Despite losing Game 1, bullying the Nets in the paint to the tune of 72 points is a blueprint to success.

https://twitter.com/ClavierEthan/status/1401324552815316996

Get back to Brook inside the 3-point line

Lopez was utilized with great success in the Bucks’ opening-round win against Miami. In the Bucks’ dominant sweep, Lopez dominated the paint at both ends of the floor, averaging 15.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game on 54.5 percent shooting.

Ever since Coach Budenholzer started utilizing Lopez inside the arc, he’s really started playing well– which has made the lack of interior play head-scratching vs. the Nets, especially with the 6-5 Brown on him. Lopez continued to just stand out at the three-point line and scored just three points in Game 3.

One move the Bucks could theoretically make to kill two birds with one stone, is post Giannis near the elbow and have Lopez in the “dunker” spot on the baseline. This would put Giannis inside the three-point line and put him in a more dynamic spot to shoot, drive or pass. It would also allow Lopez to utilize his size to seal his defender at point blank range.

The Nets will continue to play small, especially if Jeff Green is cleared to play (he has yet to play in the series). In the regular season, Milwaukee utilized Giannis or P.J. Tucker at the 5 for 57 minutes total and 22 of those minutes were in the two games vs. Brooklyn a month ago.

But when Lopez is in, use him in the paint!

Defensively – Lopez is the Bucks’ anchor

The Bucks’ defense needs Lopez’s rim protection. Without his six blocks, the Bucks don’t win Game 3.

But Budenholzer has to ditch the drop coverage on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at least when they come with the high screen by Brown or Griffin.

The Bucks can’t be fooled by Game 3 in the sense that drop coverage should still be done.

Sagging off may have worked against the lackluster outside shooting of Jimmy Butler, but Durant and Irving are completely different. Durant is a midrange assassin and the shots he is getting are warmup shots for him.

While some continue to call for less Lopez, I disagree. If he is utilized more effectively offensively to take advantage of matchups and not starkly drop in coverage defensively, Lopez can be a huge matchup problem for the Nets. If Bud can go away from iso-ball and get Lopez moving downhill and in the post it would create headaches for Brooklyn and help ease the burden on Giannis and Middleton.

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About Mitchell Skurzewski

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