Assessing Wesley Matthews’ recent play as a starter for Milwaukee Bucks

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MARCH 29 (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MARCH 29 (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

From sitting at home to start the season to now being a key member of the closing lineup for the Milwaukee Bucks, it has been a wild ride this year for Wesley Matthews. Since coming aboard in December, Matthews has carved out a crucial role for himself back in his home state of Wisconsin and has proven to be another masterful addition by general manager Jon Horst.

Matthews has been a hot topic of conversation lately as he has been featured more prominently in Milwaukee’s lineup. The veteran has started at two-guard in two of the team’s last three contests, with the lone exception being Friday’s loss to the LA Clippers, where he did not take the floor at all. While it is not set in stone yet, it would make sense to keep Matthews in the starting five heading into the postseason, given how strongly he has played in back-to-back games against the rivaling Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets.

Breaking down Wesley Matthews’ recent play as the Milwaukee Bucks’ starting shooting guard

The Bucks promoted Matthews into the starting lineup due to his robust play on defense, and he lived up to expectations in that regard in these two games.

In Philadelphia, Matthews was tasked with guarding James Harden, which is certainly a tall order. However, Matthews did a solid job of limiting Harden’s contributions as the former MVP scored a mere four points while committing a turnover over the 22.60 partial possessions that they went head-to-head, according to Having Matthews take on the Harden assignment allowed Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee’s other premier defender in the backcourt, to defend Tyrese Maxey, who went scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting across 28.10 partial possessions. Holiday would typically be responsible for guarding Harden, but with Matthews in the lineup, it freed him up to save some energy for the offensive side of things, though defending Maxey is still not a walk in the park.

With Brooklyn next on the schedule, it made sense to keep Matthews in the starting lineup as they have a handful of fantastic scorers in the fold. Once again, Matthews was tasked with matching up with another reputable scorer, guarding Kevin Durant this time. During the 45 partial possessions that the two veterans matched up, Matthews made Durant work for every basket as the four-time Scoring Champion scored 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting while also committing a single turnover. Excluding a late-game blunder that nearly cost the Bucks the game where Matthews fouled KD on a 3-pointer with a reckless closeout, he did a stellar job of guarding the former MVP-winner.

While Matthews’ defensive play has rightfully earned the most praise, he has also played well on offense in his last two games as a starter. Given that he is the fifth scoring option, the Bucks have not relied on him heavily in that regard, but Matthews has been a solid shooter by knocking down four of his nine (44.4 percent) 3-point attempts. Long-range shooting has been a struggle for him all season long, but it appears that playing with Milwaukee’s other starters has allowed Matthews to find a groove, which is incredibly welcoming. If he continues to start, hitting the occasional triple with some consistency could make all the difference for Matthews.

Due to his play on both ends, Matthews has played a pivotal role for the Bucks down the stretch in both of these games. He is tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday for the team lead in “clutch” minutes with 13 over these past two games, having found himself out on the floor in the biggest moments against the Nets and 76ers. Though he was primarily out there for his defensive presence, Matthews did knock down a massive 3-pointer in overtime against Brooklyn that helped Milwaukee seal the deal. Without his play, the Bucks may not have pulled out these two victories.

Overall, Matthews played great in the back-to-back wins over Philadelphia and Brooklyn this past week. He brought an edge defensively that fits seamlessly alongside Milwaukee’s other stars and his offense looked much improved as well. Two games is not the greatest sample size, but there is potential in keeping Matthews as the starting shooting guard moving forward, as evidenced by his recent play.

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Time will tell if the Milwaukee Bucks ultimately decide to keep Wesley Matthews as a starter.