First-year Nets coach Steve Nash is outdueling two-time Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer by keeping things simple.
As it turns out, the coaching neophyte is getting the better of the grizzled veteran through five games of this Nets-Bucks series. Sure, Steve Nash really only needed to trust Kevin Durant down the stretch of Game 5 to come out on top, but by doing nothing, Nash is already coming out ahead of Mike Budenholzer.
Obviously, Durant was the main attraction in Game 5, but the battle between Nash and Budenholzer is one of the more interesting sub-plots of the series.
Nash’s biggest adjustment hasn’t had anything to do with the scheme and to be honest, it’s not really much of an adjustment. Durant told him he was fine to play all 48 minutes and Nash trusted him enough to let it play out.
To be fair, Nash didn’t have many options last night. Kyrie Irving missed the game with a sprained ankle, Bruce Brown was non-existent, and Joe Harris couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Nash’s decision to play a diminished James Harden 46 minutes is enough proof that the Nets were severely shorthanded.
Mike Budenholzer’s Shortcomings
On the flip side, Budenholzer trusted his guys and it backfired like his name was Wile E. Coyote. Rather than moving Giannis Antetokounmpo off the ball when the offense stagnated, Bud continued to let his superstar settle for three-pointers and post-up fadeaways.
Attacking Harden by running pick-and-rolls with Jrue Holiday or Khris Middleton would have been a worthwhile adjustment. Bud could have even moved Giannis to center and used him as the screen-setter. That tweak also would have taken Brook Lopez out of the game.
Defensively, Milwaukee leans into drop-coverage in the pick-and-roll. The Nets ran Lopez off the floor with Durant in the high pick-and-roll during the second half. Actually, check that, the Nets should have run Lopez off the floor, but Budenholzer stuck with him for far too long.
But we can’t put all the blame on Lopez for Milwaukee’s defensive struggles. On a night where only two or three Nets could put the ball in the basket, the Bucks refused to send doubles, traps, and hard hedges at Durant.
Yes, we all know that they love drop coverage, but giving Durant the same look over and over is borderline insanity.
Again, Nash’s faith in his guys paid off while Bud’s belief in his players backfired. Figuring out the balance between sticking to the game plan and making necessary adjustments is the secret sauce for coaching in the playoffs.
How Much Credit Does Steve Nash Deserve?
There was one obvious criticism against Steve Nash from the moment he was hired: He’s just a figurehead for a team that will be run by the players. It was a fair criticism at the time considering some of the comments made by Durant and Irving.
But now, through 10 playoff games, Nash’s regard for the opinions of his stars is paying off. If up to Nash and the team, there’s little chance that Durant plays 48 minutes and Harden plays at all in Game 5.
There was no rush to panic and drastically change the game plan at halftime or bench the hobbled Harden. Rather, Nash stuck to his guns and was rewarded for it.
Like it or not, Nash is doing a better job than
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