In Game 1 of the first round, the Chicago Bulls had to take on their bitter division rival. The reigning champs hosted the Bulls, and these Milwaukee Bucks appeared beatable — until they didn’t.
The first half can be summed up by an overzealous Nikola Vucevic and a hesitant Zach LaVine.
Vucevic hit a three to begin his night, which gave him enough confidence to keep shooting, even though he missed more often than not. The fact that he’s not posting up 100 percent of the time is and has always been a problem.
Vucevic has been known to hit the occasional three, but he’s much more effective in the post. His refusal to leave the perimeter took a toll on this offense on multiple occasions.
The Chicago Bulls were bad as a team, offensively, but Nikola Vucevic stole the show.
Meanwhile, LaVine looked to be aggressive on a few drives to the basket, but was more comfortable passing in those situations instead of finishing. This is something that comes as a huge disappointment after the past week of talk from LaVine.
The lack of aggression and finishing from LaVine was not what this team needed. Because he didn’t go out of his way to establish himself, the Bulls’ offense suffered. LaVine absolutely needed to try and take over, sending a message early on.
In the second half, LaVine began with a beautiful fadeaway on the baseline, with high difficulty. He sunk it. The momentum seemed to be shifting from there. He followed that shot up with a long three which he drilled, and LaVine’s confidence started to grow.
The Bulls took a 5-point lead at one point in the third after LaVine went to the bench with a questionable fourth foul. Coby White was the x-factor in a 13-0 Chicago run. But, the Bucks went on a run of their own and took a 3-point lead into the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, two big sequences happened — one for each team. Both LaVine and Giannis got hit with their fifth foul apiece. But, as both of them came back later on in a close game, neither would play as big a part as a certain big man.
The epitaph on the Nikola Vucevic era in Chicago: “The harder he tried, the worse he got.”
— Mark Potash (@MarkPotash) April 18, 2022
Vucevic, once again, was attempting to take over. All in all, he led the Bulls in field goals attempted and only finished 9-for-27. He missed some easy layups at point-blank range late in the fourth, resulting in points for the Bucks on the other end. When the final buzzer sounded, Chicago lost by a score of 93-86.
DeRozan had a rough night, but there is absolutely no world where Vucevic should be taking 27 shots in any game, let alone a playoff game. Of those 27 shots, 10 of them were three-pointers — which is even more inexcusable. This guy needs to allow LaVine and DeRozan to handle more of the offense instead of shooting every chance he gets from the outside, and focus more on making the easy layups down low.
If Billy Donovan can’t bring himself to bench Vucevic at some point, the Bulls will likely continue to come up short. He’s been the most inconsistent, volatile player in this offense, and yet he thinks he is the top option. Vucevic was just plain bad Sunday night, and the Bulls went down with him.