After going down 0-2 in the series, the Milwaukee Bucks returned home searching for answers, then stumbled onto a few things that may have turned the series around. It started with John Henson missing the last two games forcing coach Joe Prunty to change his lineup which opened the door for Thon Maker to get more minutes and he delivered. In addition to Prunty meeting his Maker, Matthew Dellavedova is getting more minutes and is bringing another dimension to their offense. The Bucks have evened the series heading to Boston, now it’s a best of three series.
In the first two games of the series, the Bucks offense looked stagnant and was reliant on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, which made it easier to defend. Eric Bledsoe was struggling on both sides of the ball and was killing the Bucks. Their offensive rating of 105.9 in those two games was 1.9 points lower than their regular season rating. Defensively it was worse, they went from a rating of 107.1 to 113.2 in the first two games. It looked like the Bucks were going to find their way out of the playoffs rather quickly.
In games three and four, Prunty put Maker and Dellavedova into the rotation and things began to turn. In games, three and four their offensive rating shot up to 122.8 and their defensive rating came down to 105.3. The new additions to rotations made their presence felt on the court, with a net rating of 27.9 for Delly and 27.5 for Maker when they were on the court.
|Regular Season||Games 1 & 2||Games 3 & 4|
In Maker, the Bucks have found a big with a skill that is lacking from Henson and Tyler Zeller; he can stretch the floor out to three and give Giannis more space to operate in. The Celtics have decided to let him shoot and rightfully so considering he shot below 30% from three. However, in the playoffs, he is knocking down 50% from deep (on 10 attempts) and giving the Bucks another drive and kick option.
Defensively, Maker has been a beast on the weakside. In three games this series he is averaging 3.3 blocks a game. He’s done a great job of handling switches like when Jayson Tatum drove on him; he stayed in front of him, never giving him a straight line to the basket and was able to block his shot. He does a great job of helping his teammates, using his go-go gadget long arms to swat away shots or at least alter attempts.
Dellavedova is a different kind of defender; he is a pure pest; the Bucks defensive rating is an absurd 91.9 when he has been on the court in the last two games. He does a great job of fighting over the top of screens and is consistently in the right help positions. He is always just in the right the spot and despite limitations athletically he seems to always do a great job just making the play, be it either a close-out, a deflection, a steal, or stepping in for a charge, he just makes the right play.
Offensively though, he adds another dimension to their offense that they don’t have with Eric Bledsoe. Delly does a great job of getting the ball to the right person when they get mismatches, in the first example you can see him directing Jabari Parker to get in the post and take advantage of the mismatch he had. He consistently makes the right read out of Pick-and-Rolls, whether it is a passer to the popper or finding the screen on a lob. He might be one of the best playmakers the Bucks have. Besides his ability to create for others, he sets solid screens that will force mismatches like he did on the baseline out of bounds that opened up an opportunity for Giannis. Finally, he’s just a heads up player, the scoop and score at the end of the first quarter was incredibly huge since they won by two.
The injury to Henson looks like a blessing in disguise forcing them to adjust their rotation and give Maker a shot. Prior to game three, Maker had logged one minute in the series and now is a pivotal player off the bench for the Bucks. Dellavedova’s insertion into the rotation has changed the way the offense looks and takes pressure off of Giannis to create on every play. It took the Bucks two games to figure out the right rotation and these two role players have swung the last two games. The big question will be if they can perform like this when the show goes on the road.
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All Stats from NBA.com/stats
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