That belief primarily stemmed from what the big man did when these two teams previously met in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Lopez was excellent in that series, especially on the defensive end in a four-game sweep by the Bucks. While neither team is the exact same as 2021, the key pieces are still in place, so many Lopez could certainly still have a major impact.
Unfortunately, the Lopez from 2021 was nowhere to be found in Game 1 this past Sunday. On the offensive end, Lopez struggled to make much of an impact by scoring just 10 points. All of Lopez’s points came from inside the arc, but the team primarily kept him stationed out on the 3-point line. Defensively, Lopez had three blocked shots but was torn to shreds by Bam Adebayo, who finished with 22 points on 55.6 percent shooting.
The Brook Lopez that took the floor on Sunday is far from the best version of the big man. He and the Bucks will look to put Game 1 behind them and make the proper adjustments moving forward, and a big part of that should involve getting Lopez more involved on both ends.
Giannis aside, Brook Lopez is the Bucks’ X-factor in Game 2 versus Heat
Of course, the biggest X-factor for the Bucks leading up to Game 2 is Giannis Antetokounmpo and his health. The forward fell hard to the floor in Game 1 and was ruled out with a back contusion as a result. Coach Budenholzer stated after the game that Antetokounmpo’s X-rays came back clear and that the team would monitor his status in the coming days. Antetokounmpo aside, Lopez may be the Milwaukee Bucks’ biggest X-factor in Game 2 and potentially the rest of the series.
First and foremost, Lopez needs to get more involved on the offensive end, especially if Giannis is not on the floor. Aside from Adebayo, the Heat do not have much size, which should be a sign for the Bucks to use more of “Brooklyn Brook,” referring to when the center attacks the basket rather than constantly camping out on the 3-point line. Rather than jacking up 45 triples and making just 11 of them, the Bucks need to get more looks inside, and Lopez could be the driving force.
If Antetokounmpo does have to miss another game, Lopez attacking the hoop has to be a point of emphasis. Remember when Antetokounmpo got hurt against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals and had to miss Games 5 and 6? Remember how Lopez scored a game-high 33 points on 14-of-16 shooting from 2-point range in that game? When Giannis is not on the floor, it gives Lopez more room to operate in the lane, and the Bucks simply did not use that in Game 1. Whether Giannis is on the floor or not, the Bucks need to emphasize that more often.
Defensively, the Bucks may have to rethink the strategy of letting Adebayo take every open jump shot. In 2021, it worked incredibly well as Lopez essentially took the big man out of that series in its entirety. However, Adebayo is a better player now. If Lopez dares him to take those shots, he is going to, and he’s more than capable of making them; Game 1 showed that again and again. That means Lopez must tighten up on that end and make things more difficult for Adebayo. It’s easier said than done, but it must be done.
Game 2 is a huge one for the Bucks. With or without Antetokounmpo, this Milwaukee team needs to defend its home court. A big factor in getting their first win of the 2023 NBA Playoffs will be the play of Brook Lopez on both sides of the basketball. He is a significant X-factor moving forward.
Stay tuned for a pivotal Game 2 on Wednesday.