Mail time! At the end of the first week of playoffs, we emptied our mailbox, this time including: the search for weaknesses in the main favorites, a new face of the Warriors’ future and the Grizzlies 2.0 issue.
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NBA: Bucks and Suns – Finding the weak spots
SPOX User Santachristo: Please ask a question that needs number processing. What are the weaknesses of the Suns and Bucks?
Before the playoffs began, Bucks vs. Suns was a popular choice in the finals. In fact, there was a lot to be said for a rematch: Phoenix dominated the league almost at ease, Milwaukee had a true MVP contender, and championship arrogance. Now both teams are surprisingly 1-1 in their first playoff round.
Personally, I think Chicago and New Orleans will find out very quickly that Game 2 was just a favourite’s slip. The real obstacles come in later rounds. But it’s also clear that Phoenix and Milwaukee aren’t completely immune to weaknesses. While you have to look very hard for the Suns, the Bucks’ defense is particularly impressive.
in the classification of cleaning the glass, which removes Garbage Time from the stats, the defending champion averaged 14th defensively (112.0 points allowed per 100 possessions) during the regular season. Two years ago, Milwaukee was at the top here.
The simplest explanation: injuries. The Bucks rarely had their entire team available in the regular season. Former DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo missed 15 games, as did the feared center back Jrue Holiday and defensive anchor Brook Lopez most of the season. The fact that the defensive rating has dropped to 22nd in the last 12 games when the stars were largely on board can perhaps still be attributed to a certain period of adjustment or a lax approach before the playoffs got serious.
NBA: The Bucks Defense in Review
But let’s dive a little deeper into the numbers. What is clear is that Milwaukee had more trouble defending the ring during the regular season – understandably without Lopez at center and with replacement Bobby Portis on hand. Opponents landed 66.2% of their shots in the restricted area (19th), in previous years this was one of the strengths of the Bucks defense (2019/20: 55.2%, 1st place – 2020/21: 61, 3, 2nd place). In the last twelve games with Lopez, that figure reached 68.9%.
Coach Mike Budenholzer’s defensive concept is actually based on closing the ring. This shows very well the dominance of recent years. Milwaukee has and is making cuts in the defense of the three-man line. Giannis and company allowed by far the highest number of three in the regular season (40.6), which was similar in previous years.
Most of them came over the range, Milwaukee didn’t allow many of the easier three-turns. On the other hand, most of the three opponents were “open” (20.3, the third most in the league), with opponents hitting just 36.3 percent. That means there’s been a bit of luck for Milwaukee, even though Coach Bud naturally values who stays in the open. However, the hit rate is well below the league average (37.8%).
This could be dangerous in the playoffs. Not necessarily in the showdown against Chicago, who had the fewest regular-season three-pointers in the league. So far, DeMar DeRozan’s shooting ability and his own susceptibility to turnover have been an issue. But in the east there are many other dangerous teams from downtown (Miami, Brooklyn, Boston).
That’s not to say Milwaukee doesn’t have what it takes to be a title contender. But on the contrary. The Bucks beefed up their defense again in the playoffs last year, and it could happen again. Although Milwaukee could lose the migrated PJ Tucker in some matches, who took over the defense against Kevin Durant last year, for example.
NBA: The (only?) black sheep of the Phoenix Suns
What is already complaining at a high level for the Bucks is even more true for the Suns. The Phoenix had almost no weaknesses in the regular season, the cast is star-studded, balanced and well rehearsed. Offense, defense, “clutch” – everything fits in Phoenix. If so, the rebound is something like the black sheep.
In the regular season, Phoenix was in the bottom third of the table in offensive rebound percentage and in the middle in defensive rebound percentage. But in the (admittedly rare) bankruptcies, the Suns opponent averaged 7.4 more rebounds and 15.3 second chance points. The latter would be 30th in the association throughout the season as a whole.
Rebound was also a problem in the first two duels against New Orleans, in the Game 1 win it was 25 offensive rebounds (!) and 29 points in second chances. As the Phoenix reached a much higher percentage than the Pelicans, this was not punished in the end. In the Game 2 loss, however, there were still 11 offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points (9 for the Suns).
Now Phoenix has a much bigger problem with Devin Booker’s injury. An extremely important shot creator threatens to disappear for two to three weeks. The Bucks will also have to do without Khris Middleton and thus a third of the Big Three for at least two weeks. Phoenix and Milwaukee are good enough to get through the first round without both. But beyond that? A few days ago you had to look for weak spots with a magnifying glass, now bad luck with injuries can become the biggest obstacle.