Wesley Matthews’ importance to Milwaukee Bucks cannot be overstated

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 07: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 07: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Wesley Matthews revenge tour is full steam ahead in the 2022 NBA Playoffs and if you can’t grasp how important he is for the Milwaukee Bucks at this point, then there’s really no helping you at all.

After catching a ton of flak from Bucks fans to end the regular season after he was inserted into the starting lineup ahead of Grayson Allen, we’re seeing exactly why he got the reps with the starting unit down the stretch, because he is a very valuable defensive piece that the Bucks need more than ever without Khris Middleton against the Boston Celtics.

Let’s all count our blessings that Matthews is on this team and has the trust of the coaching staff, ok?

Why Wesley Matthews has been so vital to the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs

There was far too much slander of the 35-year-old Matthews this season, specifically, once he entered the starting lineup. Admittedly, I was skeptical while he was in his shooting slump before the All-Star break.

If he couldn’t hit shots, then there wasn’t much use for him in the playoffs. If opposing defenses can ignore you because you’re shooting under 30 percent from 3, then no matter how good your defense is, you’ll be left alone behind the 3-point line and dared to knock down shots.

He’s shooting 40 percent from 3 on nearly four attempts a night, so teams need to respect him from distance.

That’s not the point, though!

Matthews has been fantastic on defense. There’s nothing else that can be said other than he’s been fantastic on the defensive end and in the first eight games of the playoffs, we’re seeing exactly why Matthews is so crucial to how the Bucks want to defend.

He took the toughest assignment in the first round as the primary defender against DeMar DeRozan and rose to the challenge. He held DeRozan to 11-of-29 from the field (all 2-point shots) and forced seven turnovers. He committed six shooting fouls and that doesn’t sound great but it’s against someone who got to the line the third most this season.

In the second round against the Celtics, Matthews has taken on the assignment of defending Jayson Tatum.

In the first two games, the All-NBA candidate averaged 25 points on 54 percent true shooting. That’s good, but not what we’ve become accustomed to from Tatum. Still, he got his and helped Boston win Game 2 with an under-the-radar 29 points.

Game 3 was a very different story.

Tatum finished with 10 points and shot 4-of-19 from the field. That’s a true shooting of under 25 percent. He also had three turnovers and only three assists. He didn’t hit a single 3. Tatum was neutralized in Game 3.

While that’s not all on Matthews (Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo protected the rim well and Jrue Holiday mixed in for some possessions to guard Tatum), he deserves a lot of the credit as Tatum could get nothing going with Matthews on him.

Matthews did a phenomenal job in moving his feet to stay in front of Tatum and defend as best he could without fouling. He even took a couple of forearm shots to the face that went uncalled, but luckily Tatum missed the shot. Perhaps Tatum would have been better off being called for an offensive foul to save his shooting percentage.

Regardless, Matthews has proven to be a perfect fit for the Bucks’ defensive coverage.

No matter who the big is, Matthews has been great at contesting from behind on his man (DeRozan, Tatum, etc.) just like his backcourt mate in Jrue Holiday. They are the engines that help make the Bucks’ defense go and why they can play the way that they do on that end.

He may not fill up the box score (only four points and four rebounds in Game 3, missing all three of his 2-point shots), but he’s a key cog in the machine for the Bucks. Holiday and the rest of the team talk glowingly about what Matthews means to them on defense and how he sacrifices so much on offense that I don’t know how you can not see his value at this point.

There’s a difference between an 82-game player and a 16-game player. We’re seeing that Matthews is very much a 16-game player and will be a big X-factor in the Bucks winning this series.

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Matthews and the Milwaukee Bucks will have a great chance to go up 3-1 on Monday at home.