The Milwaukee Bucks must switch more defensively vs. Boston Celtics

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 13 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 13 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks had the opportunity to eliminate the Boston Celtics in the second round of the NBA Playoffs on Friday night at Fiserv Forum but failed to take advantage as the Celtics cruised to a 108-95 win in an intense Game 6.

Boston dominated the perimeter and Jayson Tatum dropped a 46-point masterpiece to force a Game 7 at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon. The Celtics came out with more urgency and led by as many as 18 points throughout the contest. They certainly stepped up to the challenge while on the brink of elimination and deserved to take Game 6 without a doubt.

Despite a stellar performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo that included a monster stat line of 44 points, 20 rebounds, six assists, and two blocks, the Bucks couldn’t get enough help from the supporting cast to carry them over the top this time. Adjustments will be needed for what’s about to be an epic Game 7, and the defensive schemes will be a major discussion point for Milwaukee leading up to the final contest of this thrilling series between these two title-contending teams.

Heading into a critical Game 7, the Milwaukee Bucks need to switch more defensively against the Boston Celtics if they’re going to survive and advance.

Across the Mike Budenholzer era in Milwaukee, the Bucks have developed an elite defensive system that stems from a drop coverage scheme. Drop coverage has been successful for the most part due to the ideal personnel that the Bucks possess with 7-foot center Brook Lopez cleansing the paint, a Defensive Player of the Year in Giannis Antetokounmpo lurking around the interior, and solid perimeter defenders headlined by Jrue Holiday that causes discomfort among ball-handlers.

Although, since Budenholzer’s traditional drop coverage is designed to limit points in the paint, it can be exploited by efficient 3-point shooting. It’s no secret that letting it fly from 3-point range is part of the blueprint to defeating these Bucks. It’s haunted them in the past, and now the Boston Celtics are executing the same game plan in this eventful series.

In Game 6, the Celtics drained 17-of-43 3-point field goals, shooting 39.5 percent from beyond the arc. They’ve been a substantial 3-point shooting team all season and continue to shoot well from the perimeter throughout this matchup.

With most of their rotation being legit threats from 3-point territory, Boston is generating plenty of open opportunities to pounce upon when the Bucks are in drop coverage defensively. There are often times when Milwaukee is too slow to react or recover when the focus is on protecting the interior, and the Celtics continuously make them pay by kicking it out to the open guy on the perimeter.

If a team is efficiently making their 3-point attempts against the Bucks, Budenholzer has often adjusted the defensive scheme by switching more often with versatile lineups that are flexible. It usually involves Giannis Antetokounmpo or Bobby Portis at center instead of Brook Lopez, then surrounded by a bunch of versatility.

Switching defensively allows ball-handlers less space to operate, especially on the perimeter, and the Bucks have found success with the strategy in years past. It was certainly a crucial factor during last year’s championship run.

With the Celtics consistently exploiting the Bucks from behind the arc, the Milwaukee Bucks should adjust in Game 7 by switching at a higher rate defensively. In the concluding game of the series, the Bucks can’t let Boston catch fire from 3-point land again.

Of course, this would mean fewer minutes for Brook Lopez and Grayson Allen, but they haven’t been productive enough offensively to give the Bucks a reason to maintain their playing time. Milwaukee should feel good about a switch-oriented lineup of say Jrue Holiday, Pat Connaughton, Wesley Matthews, Antetokounmpo, and Portis. The Bucks have the personnel to maximize a switch-heavy scheme.

Evidently, the Celtics would try to hunt mismatches in this scenario, but it might be more worth the risk than the gamble of leaving open 3-point shooters in drop coverage. Budenholzer will have key decisions to make throughout this upcoming season-defining game, and the defensive schemes will be one of the most important aspects to execute.

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As we approach Game 7 between two aspiring championship teams, the Milwaukee Bucks should prepare to switch more defensively against the Boston Celtics in favor of the traditional drop coverage system.