What the Lakers should expect from Milwaukee’s offense:
Milwaukee is consistently one of the fastest-paced teams in the NBA ever since Mike Budenholzer took over as head coach. Milwaukee often has Giannis bring the ball up the court with four shooters trailing him in transition. They often look like last season’s Houston Rockets team if they all grew six inches overnight.
If Giannis does not get to the paint immediately, Budenholzer likes to run a 5-out offense with basic actions to get the two-time MVP going to the basket with a head of steam. He will also run secondary actions with Giannis as a decoy to setup Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.
Coach Budenholzer, like Coach Kerr often does, uses his worst shooter (Giannis in this case, although he has improved greatly) as a screener to leverage help defenders packing the paint more than usual into an open three-pointer for Middleton or another sharpshooter on the perimeter. Dante DiVincenzo comes to mind as a shooter that will be key to stop tonight, as will former Lakers center Brook Lopez.
How Anthony Davis and Lakers coach Frank Vogel can slow down Milwaukee’s offense:
With this in mind, Anthony Davis must have the discipline to not overhelp when guarding Giannis away from the ball. Frank Vogel should implement a zone-like help scheme to collapse on Giannis right before he enters the free-throw line extended. AD should consider that spot as a decision point as to whether Giannis will pass to an open shooter or attack the basket.
If Giannis keeps going, AD has a chance for chase-down blocks. If Giannis hesitates, AD can use his massive wingspan to cut off passing lanes to shooters in the corner. Milwaukee almost always has nobody in the paint unless if Giannis drives to the basket or if Bobby Portis (their backup center) cuts baseline.
As good as Milwaukee is, their offense is extremely predictable – hence why their title hopes inside the bubble burst last season. The offense is centered around Giannis driving past his man and attacking the basket with four shooters surrounding him. There is not much room for adjustment whenever an offense is this reliant on one player.
It made sense unconventional defenses doomed Milwaukee in their past two playoff exits. They were unable to adapt to Toronto’s box-and-one on Giannis and Miami’s inverted 2/3 zone. The zone defenses stumped Milwaukee, not Giannis being just a so-called regular season player.
Milwaukee’s entire offensive system is only designed with man-to-man defense in mind. Their offense has shooters but they still cannot effectively attack a zone defense because their offense is predicated on the dribble-drive, not ball movement or players moving without the ball. Coach Vogel should throw in a matchup zone every so often to disrupt Milwaukee’s offensive rhythm.
The other four help defenders should be the ones to play way off of everyone else. Giannis is unstoppable when the help defense stays home on the shooters, but he is a mere mortal when multiple defenders swarm him 10 feet away from the basket.
As I have stated before, defenses should always take away what the opposing team’s best player does best. Giannis is Milwaukee’s best player. What he does best is to attack the basket in transition. The Lakers have to stop Giannis first and then worry about the other four guys.
Anthony Davis must make Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks say they are all done by the end of the game. He has to consistently beat Giannis down the court in early offense. If he can get his fair share of touches in the low post in semi-transition opportunities, he will get his 25 points needed for the Lakers to win.
Defensively, he has to stop him in transition and be the centerpiece of a modified defensive scheme centered around stopping Milwaukee’s dribble-drive offense. If AD can successfully anchor the defense on the fly, then the Lakers will fly out of Wisconsin with a victory tonight.