There’s no way to sugarcoat it; the Bucks playoffs run is in a terrible spot. Down 1-3 while losing in different ways in every game isn’t good. In game 1, they couldn’t defend the 3. Game 3 was ugly defense all around, and the offense couldn’t get going. Game 4 was the Jimmy Butler show. The fact Miami is winning in different ways is concerning, but the issues for the Bucks are correctable.
Let’s not forget Milwaukee has the best player in basketball. We’ve seen him come back from injury in the playoffs, and will this team to wins. They also had the best record in basketball this year, with their top players missing a ton of games. Obviously, playoff basketball is different, but this franchise has won three straight games in the playoffs before and can do it again.
If they improve in these 3 areas, the Bucks playoffs hopes will survive.
Bucks Playoffs Turnaround Objective No. 1: Over or Under
So far in this series, the Bucks have been torched by screens up top. The Bucks have typically gone under these screens, which has resulted in wide-open 3-point looks. When they went over them in game 4, it opened up driving lanes for Butler, where he feasted. The Bucks need to do a much better job of deciding when they need to go over or under screens.
Miami isn’t a great 3-point shooting team statistically, especially without Tyler Herro. However, players like Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson have punished the Bucks’ defense for making the wrong decisions. The Heat have finished with 3-point percentages of 60%, 44%, 48.5%, and 40.6% so far through 4 games. It’s no longer a discussion of one or two good games. They are just converting good looks, and Milwaukee needs to adjust.
The Bucks need to be smarter about going over screens against shooters and under screens against Butler. If he makes you pay by making a triple, then so be it. They also need to do a better job of communication if they have to switch on a screen. We’ve seen players get wide-open looks due to lazy closeouts or miscommunication from the defenders.
Bucks Playoffs Turnaround Objective No. 2: Attack Jimmy Butler
This may seem odd since he appears not to be mortal, but in all seriousness, Butler has looked gassed at times in this series. Although he was effective down the stretch in game 4, he obviously left it all out there. He had absolutely nothing left due to carrying his team for fur quarters. The Bucks need to take advantage of that and attack him on offense. He’s a good defender, but making him work on both ends will likely make him less effective on offense.
Another part of this is taking advantage of the time he isn’t on the court. There were a couple of stretches in game 4 where Miami coach Erik Spoelstra stole minutes with Jimmy Butler on the bench. The Bucks had a decent lead and couldn’t extend it without the best player for the Heat on the floor. That’s an issue. That killer instinct needs to be there, and Milwaukee should have put the game out of reach during that time.
Bucks Playoffs Turnaround Objective No. 3: Convert Open Looks
Outside of game 2, Milwaukee hasn’t converted over 40% of their 3-point attempts in any of the Bucks playoffs games. That’s an issue considering how wide open some of the looks are. Miami is packing the paint in attempts to stop Giannis and Lopez, which means players like Khris Middleton, Pat Connaughton, and Grayson Allen need to find open space and knock down the shots.
The Bucks shot 32.5% from downtown in game 4, and it looked like virtually every look for players outside of Jrue Holiday was wide open. Allen and Connaughton have long been streaky shooters, but they need to find consistency, especially on looks where consistency shouldn’t be an issue. Milwaukee ball handlers are doing a great job of creating open looks, and the bigs are converting inside. The only thing slowing this offense down is the outside shooting that has plagued this team in the playoffs for years.
This team made 25 triples while shooting 51% in game 2. Although that is an unsustainable number, the ability is obvious. We’ve seen them do it throughout the regular season, and there are opportunities to do it every game against the Heat.
The situation looks dire, but the changes the Bucks need to make aren’t complicated. If Coach Bud puts an emphasis on the first two points, this team is immediately in a better spot. The Heat don’t stand a chance if the open shots are falling.
For More Wisconsin Sports Content:
Follow me on twitter at DrewEsports and us at WiSportsHeroics for more Bucks playoffs content. To check out more of our content and to stay up to date on the latest in Wisconsin sports, click here.