Matthew Dellavedova pondered the question and he pondered the question some more.
It was amply apparent the Milwaukee Bucks veteran guard wasn’t sure how to respond and explain how the Bucks’ defense, which was once so deplorable during the middle of the season, is now so darn good?
“Ah,’’ Dellavedova began. “I mean … Ah … It’s tough to point to one thing. … I don’t know.’’
Who could blame him? It seems everyone who is queried about the Bucks’ startling turnaround on defense is baffled in trying to figure out how the Bucks, have suddenly transformed into one of the league’s better defensive teams, allowing 109.1 points per game and ranking them ninth with the Atlanta Hawks in that category.
- Was it because of a significant schematic change?
- Are the players becoming more accountable and actually starting to pay more attention to details?
- Was it the return of veteran swingman Khris Middleton?
Greg Monroe, what do you think was the primary reason for the Bucks turning into a quality defensive team?
“I think it’s just guys learning from their mistakes,’’ Monroe said. “I think that’s basically it. We’ve played a lot of games now and seen a lot of film, so I think everyone has finally gotten comfortable.
“We got a some new players and it takes time to work things out, But I think everybody has finally gotten accustomed and comfortable with what we do. And it’s showing on the court.’’
Indeed, the Bucks, like they have done on a consistent basis in the last decade, brought in a slew of new players. This season, the newcomers include veterans Dellavedova, Tony Snell, Mirza Teletovic, Beasley and rookies Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. All either start or play significant minutes.
Snell, the Bucks’ best defender who usually has the assignment of guarding the opposition’s best scoring guard or forward, thinks Monroe was spot on in assessing the Bucks’ defensive change of fortunes
“Yeah, the newcomers are just learning to be in the right spots,’’ said Snell, whom the Bucks acquired from the Bulls for Michael Carter-Williams. “They just weren’t used to the defensive schemes. But now that they’ve had more reps, it’s much better.
“It’s the chemistry. The chemistry is stronger.’’
Which, Dellavedova said, was maybe the answer he was looking for all along.
“Yeah, that could be it,’’ Dellavedova said. “I think that (defensive chemistry) is something that doesn’t get talked about, like they talk about chemistry on offense. You have to have chemistry on defense as well, whether it’s in the pick and roll or defending on the weakside.
“I think we got a great defensive game-plan. It is, you know, high effort. But to be successful playing defense, you need to put in that effort and intensity. When we put in that effort and play with intensity, we’ve been successful. If we follow the game plan, usually it works out pretty well for us.’’
Lately, it has worked out remarkably well.
Photo by Bill Tennessen