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Bucks Need Perimeter Defense to Set Tone in Remainder of Series

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The Milwaukee Bucks’ perimeter defense, which had been so good in the regular season, was a no-show in Game 1 of the Bucks’ best-of-7 Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Miami Heat. Jimmy Butler went off for 40 points and Goran Dragic had his way as well.

Yes, Giannis is the Defensive Player of the Year. But the Bucks will need more than Giannis to get past the Heat.

Khris Middleton will need to be better defensively against Butler. Middleton did score 28 points himself which was a bright spot for the Bucks. But getting Eric Bledsoe back in Game 2 from a hamstring injury would be a much-needed boost for the Bucks.

 

While Giannis is obviously great defensively, Bledsoe is a tone-setter defensively.

Bledsoe’s performance can be a bit tricky to predict, however. He doesn’t need to be scoring like Middleton to make an imprint on this series– he needs to do more of this if the Bucks want to win.

While fans can point to Bledsoe’s shortcomings in the postseason offensively, his defensive intensity is pivotal for the Bucks. It also seems to spur them at the offensive end. His all-around aggressiveness needs to be there.

More Minutes for Wes?

Wesley Matthews impressed in Game 1, but only logged 23 minutes. With no reported injury or foul trouble to attribute to this low workload, expect an increase in Game 2 and beyond. He’ll need to continue being his defensive bulldog-self, limit Duncan Robinson’s three-point shooting, and hit some triples himself.

Here is a great example of what Wes did in the Bucks-Heat bubble matchup on Robinson.

Jae Crowder hits a contested three here, but the Bucks will live with those types of shots from him.

That is where this series will be decided. Giannis and Bam Adebayo will be monstrous for their respective teams, but can Milwaukee defend Butler and Dragic?

For the Bucks, Middleton and Bledsoe have had their struggles in the playoffs, at times.

Middleton was average in the Magic series aside from an 18-point fourth quarter in Game 4. He was average against the Raptors last year, too, when the Bucks were sent home in the Eastern Conference Finals.

He needs to prevent being taken to the cleaners by Butler as he did in Game 1. Middleton was fantastic for the Bucks in their thrilling comeback win over Miami in the seeding games, scoring 33 points on just 14 shots. He doesn’t need to be that good, but he needs to make his mark on this series.

Game 2 tips at 5:30 PM CT on ESPN.

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About Mitchell Skurzewski

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