Mike Budenholzer is risking his job if he won’t play Bucks best players vs. Nets

Mike Budenholzer said he wants to keep the Bucks’ best players fresh after Game 1 against the Nets, which is a strategy that will put his job at risk.

In what should be a long, competitive series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets, winning will be done in small margins. Game 1 seemed to be there for Milwaukee to win when James Harden left injured in the first minute, but head coach Mike Budenholzer refused to give his team its best chance.

In the Nets’ 115-107 win Saturday night, a simple glance at the box score is telling. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday played 35, 36 and 37 minutes respectively for Milwaukee, while Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving played 40 and 44 minutes for Brooklyn. Blake Griffin (35 minutes) and Joe Harris (34 minutes) also played a lot for the Nets.

When asked about his rotations after the game, which included dusting off Jeff Teague for close to 14 minutes, Budenholzer had an interesting answer.

I think our guys left it all out on the court,” the two-time Coach of the Year explained postgame, according to The Athletic’s Eric Nehm. “They all want to play 48 minutes. So we just gotta keep them competing, keep them where they can execute.

Giannis never wants to come out, Khris, Jrue. But we got a deep team and we gotta take advantage of it. Keep them ready. Keep them fresh, but they want to be out there.”

Mike Budenholzer is risking his job if he won’t play his best players

The Bucks do have a deep team, even with Donte DiVincenzo (left foot) out, so Budenholzer is correct there. But he quickly drew ire for sitting Antetokounmpo during Game 1, and he only made it worse by saying he wants to keep his three best players fresh right now. Especially when the primary alternatives seem to be Teague and P.J. Tucker (28 minutes in Game 1).

Budenholzer limiting his best player’s minutes in the playoffs is nothing new. In five full playoff series over the two postseasons before this one, Antetokounmpo averaged less than 35 minutes per game four times. Three series that were won in four or five games under Budenholzer is important context there, as well as another that was lost in five games. The contrast of what Nets coach Steve Nash did with his two healthy remaining stars in Game 1, essentially “we’ll win or lose with our best guys out there” put more spotlight on what Budenholzer did and his reasoning for it.

With the Bucks underachieving in the playoffs in his first two seasons, there have been questions if Budenholzer is the guy who can take them to the next level. Game 1 against the Nets brought back those same questions, and there’s serious heat on the Bucks coach again as the series continues.

Source: FanSided

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