Missing Khris Middleton: What did we learn from Bucks’ playoff loss?

Milwaukee Bucks‘ Game 7 loss in Boston on May 15 ended the Bucks’ season, but Wesley Matthews Might not stop thinking about how things could be different.Last Monday, Matthews admitted his brain had been wandering about what might have happened if the three-time All-Star Chris Middleton Will not be injured in Game 2 of Bucks’ first-round series chicago bulls.

“You can’t, because then you’re going to be crazy, you know,” Matthews said of playing “What If?” Injured game with Middleton. “But I will. I’m sure everyone will.”

After the 2020-21 season Los Angeles LakersAfter that, Matthews rejoined the Bucks, his hometown team and the team he played for two seasons before joining the Lakers.Unsigned at the start of the season, Matthews signed with the Bucks in December in hopes of helping Milwaukee successfully defend its title NBA Championship and his first NBA championship ring, but that didn’t happen.

“It’s unfortunate. Injuries are part of the sport. Injuries are part of life,” Matthews said. “You just pray that the timing isn’t when it’s happening. I know not being out there fighting with us is killing Chris. But he’s still a leader. He’s still the voice of the crowd. He’s still the voice of the pause. He It’s still the voice in the locker room, the voice on the plane. His presence is still there, and it’s felt. We just missed his ability on the pitch. So, you try not to play “what if…?” “game, but anyone who says they don’t play” what if…? “People game, they’re liars.”

While the Bucks declined to talk about it during the series, analysts (and fans) were quick to break down all the things the Bucks could have done better to beat boston celtics, Middleton did not play a second game in the series. Still need to analyze each game and consider the trend of the series, but it’s hard to find the problems the Bucks are facing in the series, and Middleton’s lineup at least partially alleviates that problem.

“Look, Chris is an All-Star, right? Chris helped us win a championship last year. Khris means as much to this organization as anyone,” Pat Connaughton told reporters on Monday. “So if he’s not around, it’s going to be more difficult. It makes the movement of the ball more difficult. We miss his ability to shoot hard. He’s a great defender. He does everything.

“So, it’s hard without him, but that’s the sport, right? Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world and injuries are part of the game. We want to try and put ourselves in a winning position so we can Could have brought him back for the next few rounds, but we didn’t make it.”

While there’s no denying the impact of Middleton’s absence on the series, the Bucks still need to figure out the best way forward, which will lead to mixed opinions. Middleton’s absence makes the truth harder to find.

On the one hand, there are debates around how the league was eliminated by the Bucks, such as sportsJohn Hollinger presented on Monday. In his story about the league’s latest trend — “Space Balls” — Hollinger wrote The Bucks won the championship just one season ago, and “looks like they’re at a tactical disadvantage going into the playoffs going forward without some changes.”

On the other hand, there is debate over how the Bucks can take the Celtics to seven games without Middleton and how the team could become a hot bet in Las Vegas ahead of the playoffs.

Often, the truth may lie somewhere in the middle.

From Hollinger: “Milwaukee’s best way to deal with it is to play Giannis at five and leave Bobby Portis and (Brook) Lopez in the pines, but the Bucks don’t have enough perimeter talent to trust such a lineup long-term. (Obviously, having Kris Middleton helps.)”

First, the Bucks only gave up 108.8 points per 100 possessions in the series and lost the series for not scoring enough. The discussion around the 3-point gap is a bit overdone, as it seldom, if ever, focuses on Milwaukee’s complete inability to create a viable look from behind the 3-point line, which is a bigger reason for the gap than the Celtics Create game problems for the Bucks.

Second, while only an episode in Hollinger’s story, Middleton is hugely important to any small-ball unit the Bucks might try to put on the floor. The whole idea behind the Bucks’ championship roster is to build (and pay for) the versatile trio of Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton, and then use the rest of the roster spots to build a team that can play in the season. A malleable team against different teams in a variety of ways in the postseason. On the road to the 2021 NBA championship, the Bucks dominated the team with their size, but also with Antetokounmpo at center Flexible use in small-ball lineups.

Last postseason, according to “Cleaning the Glass,” the Bucks’ most-used small-ball lineup was Holiday, Middleton, Pat Connaughton, PJ Tucker Antetokounmpo outscored the team by 16 points per 100 possessions on 199 possessions. They scored 124.1 points per 100 possessions, while the team scored 108.1 points per 100 possessions. Matthews isn’t seen as the same player as Tucker, but could he replace him in a small-ball configuration and achieve similar results in the playoffs?

impossible to know, because Middleton not in series against Celtics. The Bucks’ smallness is all about the insane point guard they can guard at multiple positions, their weird two-time MVP, and their 6-foot-7 wings that can guard multiple positions and get offensive . bucket. Without one of those three players, any judgments about the team’s ability to play differently should be reviewed.

However, questions about the malleability of their role players make perfect sense this season:

From The moment the Bucks decided to let Tucker move to Miami, there have been questions about how the Bucks will replace his size and defensive acumen on the wing. Matthews (6-foot-4) is admirable in his role as a defensive first wing, but if there’s any doubt, Middleton’s injury says it all: The Bucks need another big wing this season, But they never found that player.

Middleton’s absence should also allow the Bucks to spend more time thinking about what exactly they need from role players. Milwaukee needs to be able to put together a more versatile defensive lineup, which is something the Bucks have been trying to find from the moment they let Tucker go, but they may also need to consider whether they can find more organization and play from fills. Shot-creation opportunities to rule out roster spots outside of the Big Three.

The roster competing for a championship will be top-heavy; that’s how things work in a league that needs stars to win a championship. But the Bucks have leaned toward the offensive skills of their Big Three and asked their other players to work with the Big Three on offense. Is there a chance to give their role players more chances to play? Do you need the right cosplayer to do this? Can that offensively skilled role player compete defensively in the playoffs?

These questions are hard to answer because there is no way to know exactly what your team needs at what point in the playoffs.If the Bucks’ second-round opponent is Miami Heat or Philadelphia 76ers, can they survive playing a big lineup without needing a viable small-ball lineup? It’s certainly possible, but every postseason is unique, and they might need something different next postseason, so being as versatile as possible is the only solution.

With one of the playoff’s three best players injured, the Bucks won’t need to overhaul their roster this offseason. They don’t need to dump Lopez for a wing to better move forward with the Celtics. They need to keep Lopez or another viable big man to ensure they can compete against size-dependent teams in the playoffs. And they also need to find players who can compete better in small-ball lineups as well. They need to form as complete and versatile lineups as possible because teams need to be able to win in different ways in the playoffs.

It’s not an easy task, but the foundation of Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton makes team building easier; as long as they’re still on the court in the playoffs, of course.

(Photo by Khris Middleton: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today)