The Bucks championship aspirations were strained with Middleton’s MCL sprain. Was Middleton’s injury the reason for the Buck’s second round exit from the Playoffs?
It is fair to say that Khris Middleton is the Milwaukee Bucks second best player. For the sake of argument I will list him and Jrue Holiday at 2(a) and 2(b). Middleton averaged 20.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in the regular season.
After Middleton went down in the second game of the playoffs this year the Bucks were forced to scramble to find a rotation that would generate similar production to that of a fully healthy Middleton. During the 7 games series against Boston the Bucks figured a combination of Wesley Matthews and Grayson Allen would be the most likely to fill the shoes of the three time all-star. The combination of B. Lopez, J. Holiday, W. Matthews, and G. Antetokounmpo played a total of 92 minutes together, more than any other 4 player combination in the seven games. This combination had a +/- of -22 while on the court together. I truly believe Matthews was brought over after a one year stint with the Lakers to replace the loss of PJ Tucker. It is easy to say that Matthews is completely defensive minded with the ability to shoot the three ball around the mid 30 percent range.
Grayson Allen was also inserted in the lineup and saw his minutes increase after Middleton went down. The combination of B. Lopez, J. Holiday, G. Antetokounmpo, and G. Allen played 67 minutes during the 7 games against Boston. This combination did slightly better together, collectively contributing to a +/- of -18. Grayson Allen showed that he is productive on the Offensive side on the ball. Yet, the bucks become a bit compromised on the defensive end. The Celtics placed Allen in Pick and Roll situations to exploit his defensive struggles.
The pair of Allen and Matthews played together for 99 minutes over 7 games. They averaged 29.9 points per game on 41.1 percent shooting. They scored more points yes, but they were far less efficient than Middleton is. During the regular season Middleton shot 37.3 percent from three point range. Matthews and Allen while on the court together shot 27.3 percent from three point range. Additionally, they averaged 1.4 steals per game only .2 steals more than Middleton by himself.
The simple fact is this, in the 2021 Finals the Bucks averaged 111.7 points per game. In their loss to the Celtics this year they averaged 97.7 points per game. The Bucks shot at a higher clip at 46.7 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from three point range with Middleton in the 2021 Finals, opposed to 41.4 percent from the field and 27.9 percent from three without him. If you just compare the numbers with Middleton and without it is clear to see the difference. Milwaukee for sure missed the 20 points per game that come with Middleton being in the line up.