“This is a loss that gets you fired in the regular season!!” That’s how people summed up Game 2 between the Bucks and the Nets that the team from Brooklyn won by 49 points. It seems like the only thing that saved Mike Budenholzer from an immediate “mutual agreement” was the fact these are the Playoffs.
Coach Bud’s main criticism has always been that he doesn’t make adjustments in the Playoffs. His system is great for the regular season, but you do need to adapt to what your opponent is doing in the Playoffs. Budenholzer has certain dogmas he won’t let go of. Bucks fans got their hopes up this season when they saw their team play unusual line-ups and spend a significant amount of time playing different defensive schemes. It seemed Budenholzer finally accepted to change his ways and sacrifice a few regular-season wins to try stuff out and have more than one weapon in his arsenal come Playoff time.
But no matter the defensive scheme, you can’t win in the Playoffs, particularly if you’re playing against Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Joe Harris waiting in the corner if your best guys aren’t on the court. After a season riddled with injures, Steve Nash played Kyrie Irving 45 minutes and Kevin Durant 40 minutes in Game 1 of the series. How did Bud respond? Giannis 36 minutes, Khris Middleton 37 minutes, and Jrue Holiday 38 minutes.
Game 2 was a demolition, so everyone played fewer minutes in that one, but it’s still telling that KD and Kyrie spent the same amount of time on the floor as did the Bucks’ best three players. But there is another comparison that shows the change Bud will have to make in his mentality. In the first two games of Round 2, Joel Embiid has played more minutes than Giannis Antetokoumpo. The same Embiid we weren’t sure if he would show up due to a torn meniscus.
As I said, Game 2 was a blowout, so Giannis sat out the entire 4th quarter while Embiid played in two close games. But Bud’s explanation for the minute restrictions has been that he has to keep his guys fresh, so they perform at their peak when they’re on the floor. The thing is, Budenholzer is missing the entire point.
The question isn’t how much less productive Giannis is if he played 44 minutes compared to 37 minutes. The question is, how better are the Bucks with a fatigued Giannis on the court or with him on the bench. Doc Rivers gets it – 90% Embiid is still better than a healthy Dwight Howard on the floor. A slightly diminished Giannis due to fatigue is still better than a fresh Thanasis or Bobby Portis.
A miracle would have to happen for the Bucks to win the next 4 out of 5 games. The Nets are historically great on offense and surprisingly great on defense, but there’s still a feeling Milwaukee didn’t give themselves the best chance to win. That’s what the head coach is supposed to do.
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