Former SMU guard Sterling Brown is making the most of his opportunity as he started all four games of the Milwaukee Bucks first-round sweep of the Detroit Pistons.
Brown averaged just over eight points, five rebounds and three assists as he started alongside Kris Middleton on the wing all four games.
The former SMU guard’s opportunity came down the stretch as the Bucks worked through a rash of injuries.
It started when Malcolm Brogdon, the NBA’s rookie of the year in 2017, went down with a plantar fascia injury in early March that was likely to force him to miss at least the first round of the playoffs. The Bucks then lost Tony Snell (ankle) and Nikola Mirotic (thumb) in the span of a week opening the door for Brown to receive his first start during a March 26 game against the Houston Rockets. Brown finished with eight points and 11 rebounds, but more importantly matched up against Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul, holding him to 19 points and four assists, as Paul also turned the ball over twice.
Against the Pistons, his assignment was Luke Kennard, who scored a team-high 21 points in Game 1 but was held to just five points when Brown guarded him during Game 2. During the Bucks’ close-out win over the Pistons, Brown finished with nine points, six assists, a steal and a career-high 13 rebounds.
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer, recently praised the toughness the former SMU guard brings to the lineup even if he doesn’t offer the same offensive firepower of Brogdon.
“Almost everything we talk about starts with defense, and Sterling’s physicality and size, he’s brought a nice added element,” Budenholzer said. “Offensively he’s shot the ball really well all year and he’s getting more comfortable as a playmaker and passer.”
Although Brown didn’t receive much playing time early in the season, appearing in just 58 games and playing double-digit minutes in just four of the team’s first 21 games he continued to stay ready at a time the Bucks needed him with questions swirling about how the team’s recent run of injuries would affect the team in the playoffs. Against the Pistons, Brown averaged 25.8 minutes per game and was one of the unsung heroes in a physical series against the Pistons.
“It shows how we got each other’s back and stay true to our principles we’ve had in place all year,” Brown said. “They gave us a great shot, they came out firing on all cylinders, knocking down shots, getting pretty much whatever they wanted to do. We held strong and stayed together and came out with the win. It was pretty physical, I’d say the last two games were about even, they brought it … they had no choice, they had to.”
The Bucks will need more of the same from Brown, as Brogdon is expected to miss at least the first two games of the Bucks next series against the Boston Celtics. Snell returned in Game 3 but played just over five minutes in the final two games of the series.
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