Milwaukee Bucks: Revisiting Milwaukee’s 3-point defensive problems vs. Brooklyn

Digging deeper into the Milwaukee Bucks’ defensive issues

I wish I could drop this guys, but the hits keep on coming. A few days after my article bashing the Milwaukee Bucks‘ 3-point defense was published, they let the Utah Jazz hit a franchise-record 25 3’s against them. Predictably, the Bucks lost that game. It wasn’t particularly close.

I promise I’m not just trying to bash on my hometown team. I’ve been watching the Bucks my whole life and we were dog-water up until Giannis Antetokounmpo arrived. I should be grateful. But I am also very anxious. They cancel out more than you’d think. They’re so close to title material. But this 3-point defense is setting the Bucks back. And it is going to get worse in the playoffs.

Hello Brooklyn! The Nets traded for James Harden, giving them a third offensive megastar. All three of whom operate quite well beyond the arc. Their combined averages, just for funsies – 84.1 points per game, 22.7 assists, 18.3 rebounds, and 9.6 3’s. I could include the defensive stats…but why bother, right?

Listen, all three of these players dominate in the pick-and-roll and are elite shooters. They can expose the Bucks’ defense in the worst ways. That’s not even mentioning Joe Harris, who shoots 51 percent from 3 and is hitting 3.1 of them a game. The new-look (minus Kyrie) Nets faced up against the Bucks on MLK day.

The Nets hit 15 3’s at about a 48 percent clip. A blistering percentage but not a death sentence of a 3-point performance. KD, Harden, and Harris accounted for 10 of them. Jeff Green (how does he keep finding himself on these contenders??) hit four. A lot of them were wide open. Including the one KD hit after an offensive rebound to end the game.

But, the Bucks lost by just two points. Khris Middleton took an ill-advised 3 at the buzzer but I’ll be damned if that sucker didn’t barely rim out. And the Bucks defense wasn’t as much of a disaster as one would think reading the first few paragraphs. The whole team switched often and effectively to counter Brooklyn’s pick-and-roll game.

Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo especially deserve their duckets for their performance against Harden. Giannis had some moments as well, disrupting passes to and shots from Kevin Durant often even without being matched up on him for most of the game.

But, yeah, I started this paragraph the same as the last, deal with it. The Nets still ate up our drop coverage. Time and time again, especially in the clutch, Harden or KD would run a pick with Brook’s defender and hit a wide-open mid-range every single time. Wide-open 3’s on occasion too. The funny thing is, the Bucks exposed the same weakness against DeAndre Jordan’s drop coverage.

Middleton had three or four straight possessions of running the pick with Giannis and nailing a mid-range. A play they did not run on their last couple possessions for some inexcusable reason. For the Nets, they’ll be running Durant at center in crunch-time come playoffs. That actually solves a lot of their issues, especially in a possession-for-possession playoff game. For the Bucks, it is not so simple.

The issue remains that Brook Lopez is not mobile enough to run a non-drop coverage defense and that the Bucks don’t have a good enough player off the bench to replace him. Bobby Portis has been electric off the bench this season, but he is not the elite power forward defender we need to be able to run Giannis at center.

That is the ultimate version of the Bucks whether they accept it or not. Grabbing a player that unlocks that for the Bucks may be difficult (P.J. Tucker) with their limited trade assets (P.J. Tucker) and cap situation (P.J. Tucker, come on they’re selling), but it will be necessary for the Bucks to take the next step (just go get PJ @Horst if you’re reading this, and I know you are).

You thought I would name this a sequel without some dumb specific stats I spent all day researching, didn’t you? Come on guys, I’m only a small, cute level of superficial. No more than that. Anyways, after the Jazz hit their franchise record for 3’s in a game against the Bucks, I had a thought. Just how many teams have hit their franchise-record against the Bucks since Bud took over? I mean it’s been two seasons if you combine the games played this season and the shortened season last year. Surely, it can’t be that many. Ha!

Five teams, including the Jazz, have either set or tied a franchise record for 3’s made in a game against the Bucks. Under Bud. In basically two seasons. That’s about 1/6th of the league, y’all. Not awesome. But is that a bit tame for you? Do you want something deeper? Should I have rephrased that? No time for that now, I have more dumb stats for you.

It turned out I was the one that wanted something deeper. And deeper I went. I wanted to see how many players either set or tied their career-high for 3’s in a game against the Bucks. Again, over a two-season period. Originally, I was only going to include active players. But because the time period is so short, I made it so if you played at least 50 games over the period, you qualified. As for what constituted as enough made 3’s for a career-high, I went with three. Only 18 players in the league today average three or more 3’s, so I think that’s far. If you don’t think so, let’s beef.

Under those requirements, the Bucks have gifted 27 players their career-high 3’s in a game. Notable players include Marc Gasol (6), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (8), Dennis Schroder (6), and Anthony Davis (4). What’s that? They all play for the defending champions? Who the Bucks would almost assuredly meet in any Finals scenario? That’s right readers, tune in next week to see how your heroes make it out of this one!

I’m not done yet, that was just a B- joke and I wanted to use it. Thanks for indulging me. Out of those 27 players, 15 teams were represented. Half the league has had a member of their roster set or tie a career-high in 3’s made. Against the Bucks. In the past two seasons. Budenholzer baby, this isn’t great.

We have seen progress, though. The Bucks are switching way more than seasons before. The Jrue Holiday effect, praise be. Bud and Horst both deserve credit for those improvements. It remains to be seen whether they will pay off come playoff time. I guess what I’m really trying to say is…TRADE FOR PJ TUCKER RIGHT NOW THE BOGDAN THING STILL HURTS BUT I WONT EVER DELETE MY TWEETS OF EXCITEMENT WHEN WE LANDED HIM.

Hoo, I needed to get that out. Thanks for being another faceless view on my analytics report, I treasure you 🙂