Milwaukee Bucks’ 3-point defense remains a lingering problem this season

Dec 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks have notoriously had their troubles defending the perimeter throughout the Mike Budenholzer coaching era. With a clear-cut emphasis on packing the paint to deny any easy shots at the rim, the Bucks have had a reputable interior defense, but this approach has opened up the perimeter for opponents to let it fly with little resistance.

This troublesome trend has been on display throughout the first portion of the 2021-22 season. According to, the Bucks have allowed their opponents to shoot the most 3-point attempts this year 1,214. Given this absurd amount of 3-point attempts, Milwaukee’s opponents have also shot the most “wide-open” triples this season with 632 this year. Despite allowing this hefty amount of attempts, it has been swept under the rug as opponents are shooting 34 percent from deep in total on the season and just 37 percent on the “wide open” looks. However, that has not been the case lately.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ struggles to defend the perimeter over their four-game road trip are concerning

The Bucks finished a four-game road swing Monday night with a tough loss to the Boston Celtics, going 2-2 on the trip. Among the most significant takeaways from this stretch was the lackluster perimeter defense from the Bucks. Milwaukee’s four opponents shot an average of 47.3 attempts from behind the arc on those games, and they made it count as they knocked down 41.3 percent of their 3-point attempts.

While it has been a collective effort from these opponents, several individuals have simply caught fire to piece together career nights. In the first game of the trip down in South Beach, Miami Heat guard Caleb Martin notched a career-high six 3-point makes in eight attempts to lead his team to an upset victory over the Bucks. Martin is not an outstanding shooter, but given the looks that the Bucks gave him, he found a rhythm and never looked back. The guard shot 5-of-6 on threes when he was open, meaning the closest defender was four to six feet away, and 1-of-2 on wide-open attempts, meaning no one was within six feet.

Players are bound to catch fire when they consistently get that much space, as the Bucks would see throughout their road trip.

Garrison Matthews erupted when the Bucks took on the Houston Rockets. Matthews is a far more notable shooter than Martin, but he still turned heads as he clocked in a career performance as he knocked down seven 3-pointers in the contest. New York Knicks rookie Quentin Grimes got the first start of his young career when the Bucks came to town as the team was slated to be without several key pieces, and he had a breakout game. After hitting just eight triples all season leading into the matchup, Grimes hit seven triples against the Bucks. Most recently, the Bucks could not survive a 3-point onslaught from Celtics wing Jayson Tatum, who hit a season-high seven threes Monday night. Grant Williams helped them get the win as he shot 5-of-7 from long range.

It seems inevitable at this point that someone on the opposing team will catch fire whenever the Bucks come to town because they will get an abundance of open looks. This is something that is and has been a problem for Milwaukee for years now. While it is concerning, the Bucks have the defensive personnel to clean up. In addition to elite-level defenders like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, the Bucks are without a handful of pieces like Wesley Matthews, Semi Ojeleye, and Donte DiVincenzo, who are all household defenders currently sidelined that would be useful on the perimeter upon returning.

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The Bucks will emphasize tuning up their defense as they take on the Indiana Pacers tonight.