The Milwaukee Bucks are almost finished with their regular season schedule and are starting to prepare for the NBA playoffs. As the postseason nears, the Bucks are trying to figure out specific rotations that would be useful during the playoffs.
The reigning champions have been a bit under-the-radar this season and are quietly the second seed in the Eastern Conference. This year, the East looks different due to the emergence of the Celtics and Bulls, and many teams have championship hopes. However, the Bucks have a great chance of repeating – that is, if they capitalize on these three keys.
#1: The Bucks must become a consistent and dominant defense once again.
Since 2017, the Bucks have been among the league’s best defensive teams thanks to their elite paint defense. Adding Jrue Holiday to the mix a few years later only made this team more potent on D.
As of late, the Bucks have not been playing the type of lock-down defense that Coach Mike Budenholzer would like to see. Part of that problem could be that Milwaukee has been without starting center Brook Lopez since opening day. Lopez can not only stretch the floor with his three point shooting, but he’s also one of the league’s best shot blockers. Combine Lopez with Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo, and no one should step foot in the paint.
Perimeter wise, the Bucks are in a really good place defensively with Jrue Holiday, Wesley Matthews, and Jevon Carter. Holiday’s versatility to be able to lock down guards and defend in the post is what makes him so special. His ability to force turnovers and get steals will help Milwaukee in the playoffs by allowing for more transition points for Giannis and company. Khris Middleton also brings versatility to the defensive side of the ball. He’s able to defend the perimeter exceptionally well for his size and can defend down low as well.
If the Milwaukee Bucks start playing defense like they did last season – and do that consistently – it will be hard to beat them in a seven game series.
#2: The Bucks must have consistent three-point shooting…
Milwaukee is one of the league’s best three-point scoring teams this year, shooting 36.8% as a team. However, in their last three games it has jumped to 41.5%, which is absurdly good for a team percentage. The Bucks’ roster has a plethora of fantastic three-point shooters including Middleton, Grayson Allen, Bobby Portis, Holiday, and Matthews. All of these players help Milwaukee by spreading out the floor for Antetokounmpo to go to work.
… and continue this during the playoffs
Furthermore, the Bucks need to continue on this path throughout the entirety of the NBA postseason. Milwaukee already knows that Giannis is going to get his stats every night. What they need is consistent shooting from outside the arc. If Giannis is able to continue with his MVP play during the playoffs and the Bucks knock down threes consistently, then there’s no doubt they can repeat.
With Giannis being able to consistently attack the rim, this will allow shooters to get more open looks. In the playoffs when defense tightens, the Bucks need to be able to knock down three-pointers at a good rate. If they can accomplish this, then the Milwaukee Bucks will have a pretty clear path to becoming champions once again.
#3: The Jrue Holiday Factor
Yes, the last key to the Milwaukee Bucks repeating as champions is Jrue Holiday himself. Holiday is averaging 18.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 6.7 apg this season. His defense continues to be his strongest component, as he is averaging 1.6 steals per game. Holiday’s biggest improvement this season has been his three-point shooting numbers. #21 shot 38% from deep last year; that number has increased to 41% this season.
Jrue Holiday allows Budenholzer to do so many things defensively that truly benefit the team. Holiday’s scoring and assist averages have both increased from last season, as well. Many teams in the Eastern Conference have top guards that can score at will, but having Holiday gives the Bucks an ability to slow them down. If you add the fact that the Bucks also have a roster loaded with good defenders, then it’s clear Milwaukee has a chance to be a dominant defense.
Holiday needs to continue on his current path as the Bucks head towards the NBA playoffs. If he can, then the Bucks are almost unbeatable in a seven game series. Holiday has been severely underrated his whole career, but he’s finally starting to get some of the respect he deserves.
Jrue brings so much intensity and a “dog mentality” to the Bucks, meaning many teams just can’t out-physical Milwaukee. With Jrue’s help, the Bucks can become the first team to repeat as champions since the Warriors in 2017 and 2018.
What all this comes down to are the two things the Bucks have prided themselves on the past few years: defense and three-point shooting. If Milwaukee can get back to playing defense at a very high level and consistently knocking down three pointers, then we may be seeing the Bucks crowned as the 2022 NBA Champions.
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