The Unbeatable Defensive Scheme Jalen Brunson Has Yet to Encounter

December 6, 2023 By admin Off

MILWAUKEE — Tom Thibodeau believes Jalen Brunson is ready for whatever the Bucks — or any defense — can throw at him. Ahead of tipoff against the Knicks on Tuesday, Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said “everything is on the table [defensively] when you have an adversary like Jalen Brunson.” That meant blitzing the pick-and-roll, sending an outright double-team on the perimeter, face-guarding him to prevent him getting onto the ball and guarding the Knicks’ star the full 94-foot length of the basketball floor.

Shortly after Griffin’s comments, Thibodeau expressed confidence his star guard would be able to solve any problems. “I always say the game tells you what to do. There’s nothing that he hasn’t seen, The blitz or size, whatever it may be. Trust the pass, make the right reads, which he does all the time,” Thibodeau said ahead of tipoff on Tuesday. “I think all the great players, they’re used to seeing all the different schemes and it’s up to us to make sure we’re moving at the right intensity level where we’re giving him the right outlets.”

He sure did it the last time the two teams faced one another. Brunson scored 45 points in the Nov. 3 meeting between the Knicks and Bucks at the Fiserv Forum, and the Bucks still had nightmares about his explosive scoring night leading into the In-Season Tournament quarterfinal on their home court on Tuesday. “Jalen Brunson is aggressive,” said Lillard — whose late-game heroics lifted the Bucks to victory over the Knicks in early November — on Sunday. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence, and he’s the head of the snake, so we gotta handle that.”

Griffin said Brunson’s unique style of play makes him a difficult cover, especially given his propensity to draw fouls. “He’s crafty. I think continue to guard him. We have to defend him without fouling. And that’s kind of a tough task at times because you want to keep your physicality,” he said. “But also you don’t want to send him to the free throw line. He’s cunning. He knows how to draw fouls. And he does a great job with it. One thing I’ll say is just have the discipline to keep him off the free-throw line.”


Thibodeau said he thinks Julius Randle is back to his old self. After offseason ankle surgery stunted Randle’s start to the season, the All-Star forward claimed Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors in early December.“Just a steady climb from the start of the season to where we are now. He’s finally healthy. But sort of what we had anticipated,” he said. “I think he’s back to the level he was at last year. He’s worked extremely hard. I think the important thing is the winning that goes along with it. He’s playing at a very high level. Doing the scoring, but the playmaking has been terrific and it’s giving us great rhythm.”


Thibodeau pushed back on the idea that Tuesday’s matchup against the championship-contending Bucks marked some sort of litmus test. “Every game’s a test, so just — I don’t want us to get caught up in hoopla,” he said. “Understand what’s important in getting ready to play. So be focused. Have great concentration. Give maximum effort. And if we’re doing the right things, the results will be good.”

The Knicks have lost seven straight to the Bucks but each of the last three games were decided by two or fewer possessions. “I think they’re hard-fought games, style of play — they’re physical, we try to be physical,” Thibodeau said. “You’ve got to play for 48 minutes. It comes down to the end.”