3 looming questions regarding the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench brigade

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 01 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 01 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland
CLEVELAND, OHIO – JANUARY 26 (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Can Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis find a groove down the stretch for the Milwaukee Bucks after their shooting slumps recently?

It goes without saying that the two most important players in the Milwaukee Bucks’ second unit are Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton. Both have been vital to the team’s success this year, and they had been battling through slumps lately, which had been problematic.

Portis, who is in the middle of yet another phenomenal season, had recently run into a wall with his long-range shooting. In 10 games from March 13 to April 1, Portis shot a combined 5-of-31 (16.1 percent) from 3-point range, having struggled mightily from the outside. Given how much the Bucks rely on their perimeter shooting this was beyond problematic. Thankfully, the big man finally broke out of his slump as he knocked down three triples in six attempts which propelled a 17-point effort off the bench during Sunday’s tough loss to the Dallas Mavericks. It was the first game where Portis made multiple triples since March 12, and it was welcoming to see him knock down some shots after struggling so mightily recently.

Finding and maintaining a rhythm from behind the arc before the postseason will be pivotal for the center, as it is arguably Portis’ greatest weapon offensively. When he is hitting his outside shots at a consistent rate, it opens the floor up for Giannis Antetokounmpo down low, which will be huge in the playoffs. This shooting will also help bump up Portis’ scoring numbers off the bench, and given that Milwaukee’s bench is among the least productive in the NBA, they need every point possible. The big man will play a key role for the Milwaukee Bucks in crucial moments, and his shooting will be incredibly valuable when he is out on the floor.

Everything that was just said about Portis also applies to Connaughton, another one of the team’s marksmen. Connaughton was having a career year shooting the long ball before being sidelined a month due to a fractured hand, which seemingly threw off his rhythm. In four matchups spanning from March 26 to April 1, Connaughton was a mere 3-of-20 (15 percent) from the outside. Given his pedigree as a shooter, this was incredibly uncharacteristic of Connaughton, but, just like Portis, he seemingly shook off the rust against Dallas by scoring 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting from deep. It was promising to see him hit as many 3-pointers in one game than he did in his last four games combined, and the Bucks will need him to build off this performance moving forward.

This duo will play significant roles off Milwaukee’s bench in the playoffs, so finding a groove from the outside over these final four games of the regular season will be pivotal for them.