Philadelphia – Wesley Matthews He hasn’t taken a chance since the third quarter, but with the game on the line, dollars Coach Mike Budenholzer put him on the floor 32.9 seconds before the Bucks’ season opener Thursday night in Philadelphia.
It’s been more than 30 minutes of actual time since Matthews tried to shoot. But he just stood there with his hands ready in the left corner Giannis Antikonmo He walked along with the ball rolling on the ground waiting for the start of the play that Budenholzer drew with the Bucks down at the last minute of the game. When he finally picked up the basketball near the semicircle, he led Antetokounmpo to the other side of the ground from Matthews and started a dribble using Grayson Allen on the right wing.
Allen turned the corner against 76ers Center Joel Embiid And I managed to get to the paint. When Allen got into the lane, Matthews’ defender Tobias Harris He tried to reach and strip the ball, and that was a mistake. Matthews climbed to the ground the moment Harris went to help and opened himself to pick up 3 from the top of the switch.
lively. Matthews knocked out the treble and gave the Bucks a one-point lead, which eventually ended up being the winning basket in the Bucks’ 90-88 win.
“You’ve been playing this game for so long, you just have to find other ways to stay engaged – on the defensive side, smash the offensive end, talk, whatever gets you busy and you’re going to live moments like that,” Matthews said. “From being in the backyard, being in the park, playing by yourself, and counting down ‘3, 2, 1’, dreaming about that moment on a stage like this. Grayson was able to find me and I was able to shoot it.”
Matthews is no stranger to big shots with the Bucks. Last season, on Christmas Day against CelticsMatthews hit No. 3 which turned into a game-winning basket as well, so his teammates had no doubts he’d be ready for now.
“That’s what he does” Bucks Center Brooke Lopez He said after the match. “That late three-way game, if the ball is in Wes’s hand, you’re pretty freaked out that it’s going in. If the whole half doesn’t touch it, it doesn’t matter. He keeps the defense, he does his job and if the ball is in his hands, you know it’s going to go up and you can account for that to a limit. big “.
While Matthews was undoubtedly holding the colossal treble to give the Bucks the lead, they scored just 90 points in their season opener and were able to win the game due to a solid performance from their defence.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said: “This morning, if you told us we were going to score 90 points and win the game, I would probably say, ‘No way.’” But at the end of the day, that’s our goal. We want to be one of the best defensive teams and we want to go out and compete together and we did that tonight.”
At the start of pre-season, Bucks assistant coach Charles Lee, who took over as Budenholzer after recovering from right ankle surgery, told reporters that the Bucks wanted to emphasize defending the three-point streak more aggressively this season.
Since the 2018-19 season when Budenholzer took charge at Milwaukee, the Bucks defensive scheme has focused heavily on taking teams off the edge and forcing opponents to shoot rival floats in a Pick-and-Roll game. With those non-negotiable points, the Bucks often surrendered a large 3-point volume to opponents. Although they often prevented the opponent’s best launcher from getting a clean look, the rest of the list usually found the slightly contested 3’s pick-and-shoot skins.
This season, Budenholzer decided that was no longer acceptable and changed to more Compete hard in the 3-point opponent’s skin. The changes didn’t go well in pre-season as the Bucks gave in too many good looks on the edge while trying to make teams less dangerous from distance.
In the regular season opener against the 76ers on Thursday, the Bucks’ defensive shot looked much better.
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As the game progresses, the Sixers guard James Harden (31 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists) He found a groove from mid-range. His hot shot fueled a fourth-quarter comeback that allowed the 76ers to temporarily take the lead, but the 76ers still had a bad night overall. Money dictating the conditions under which 76 players must score was a big part of that.
“He’s a great player,” Antetokounmue said of Harden after the match. “He wants to get to the paint and he wants to shoot a lot of 3s of dribbling. He shot, but he started with a lot of tough duos, a lot of strong floats, a lot of midrange, which is what we want at the end of the day. We want the other team to shoot So many hard seconds, two long seconds, and so many floats.”
With less help from the shooters, Harden ended up taking 24 shots, which turned out to be the same number of shots the 76ers took as a team from behind the 3-point streak. It’s worth noting that there is a real possibility that the current 76ers may not be able to generate large 3-point attempts, but for at least one night the Bucks successfully implemented their new defensive priority allowing them to play according to their attempts. strength point.
The Bucks have always tried to capitalize on their size defensively with Lopez and Antetokonmo patrolling the paint and that became especially important against Joel Embiid and the 76ers. While most teams don’t have a single player big enough to defend the Embiid, the Bucks start players who can cause him problems and played particularly well against Embiid on Thursday. The 76ers big man made only six of his 21 attempts and looked frustrated throughout the match.
“I kind of forgot how important it was to our defence,” Antetokonmo said. “This is my fifth year with him. You kind of take it for granted. But the games he didn’t play last year, you kind of realize the burden you have to put up when Brook isn’t on the floor. Like me and Bobby (Portes), we had to do everything. We had to take hits from the big guy. We had to corner the ball and bounce and block. Just having Brook there, a big It can help us recover. He can block shots. He can come out… It’s unbelievable.”
There aren’t many players on this planet who are big and strong enough to make Embiid look like this around the basket.
“It’s tough because he’s strong and very athletic,” Lopez said of Embiid’s defense. “He’s moving, he’s very mobile for his size as well. That combination makes it tough because you have to fight his power. He’s supporting you and then (you) have to be able to respond and stand up and try to face him without contamination. He does a great job at that.”
Even when Embiid managed to move Lopez and put him under the ledge with a forceful motion, Lopez was able to fend off a dunking attempt.
“Brook’s special,” Matthews said. “He is one of the most underrated players in this league and he has been for a long time. Not many people understand his selflessness and what he brings to this team and the role required of him. You know, Brock is the best scorer in the history of the Nets. That says something for him to be a break. My ground, rim guard, to sacrifice himself for the biggest of this team. I don’t think he got enough credit for that.”
By the end of the match, Embiid was less interested in attacking Lopez on the edge and instead wanted to find a comfortable spot for himself in the mid-range.
Embiid has a massive touch, which he has used to his advantage over the years, but getting him to attempt that shot in the clutch moment is a huge win for the Bucks. By settling on the jump shot, Embiid did not put the Fx at risk of potentially capitulating free throws at the moment of the clutch or giving up an open shot for a teammate through over-assist. This is due to Lopez’s size, strength and overall defensive acumen.
Going forward, the Bucks will need to find a much better offensive rhythm, but an ugly win with a solid defensive performance on the road against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, where the Bucks have implemented their new defensive priorities, is a solid start to the 2022-23 season.
(Brooke Lopez and Joel Embiid photo: Bill Streicher/USA Today)