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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Bucks’ Damian Lillard, Doc Rivers drops truth bombs on team’s defensive growth

The Bucks defense is getting better… what has been changing?

Ever since the Milwaukee Bucks traded Jrue Holiday (and Grayson Allen) for Damian Lillard, analysts began to think that the Bucks were going to have more difficulties on the defensive end than they think, even if they have Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo to patrol the paint. This has mostly been proven right, with the Bucks falling from the top of the league’s defensive rating leaderboards to the bottom half.

This was one of the factors that led to the abrupt dismissal of Adrian Griffin, paving the way for the Bucks to hire Doc Rivers as the team’s new head coach. Rivers, aside from being a respected presence in the locker room, is also a defensive-minded coach, and his task from the onset was to help right the ship for them on that end of the floor.

It seems like what the Bucks are doing is starting to work; they demolished the Denver Nuggets (that lost Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to injury in the middle of the game) on Monday, 112-95, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. Damian Lillard pointed out that Rivers’ attention to detail when it comes to drilling his team defensively is working as intended.

“I think we’ve just taken a lot of time to simplify things. We’re doing a lot of walking through. Just walking through scenarios that teams might try to do against us when we’re on the defensive side of the floor,” Lillard said, per Gabe Stoltzy of SB Nation’s Brew Hoop. “And I think we’ve just embraced it. I think the walkthroughs and the small attention to detail… I think it’s really starting to help us.”

For Doc Rivers, however, he knows that change does not happen overnight. There are growing pains, as is to be expected from a seismic midseason coaching change. But he just urges his team to trust the process defensively.

“Just steady progress. Believing in your D. Trusting it. Clarifying it — what we want to do. … And the more we can get our guys to know exactly what they’re doing, they can pull at full speed and that’s what we’re trying to do is simplify so we can play with fire,” Rivers said.

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