The Chicago Bulls dropped a game 1 of their first round series against Milwaukee on Sunday, falling 93-86.
As the series advances, we’ll post some observations, notes, and things to look for moving forward:
There are no participation trophies, especially considering everything it cost the Bulls to assemble this roster in terms of cap space and draft capital. That said, Chicago deserves some credit for taking an early punch from the Bucks, falling behind 9-0 to start the game and 34-21 after the 1st quarter, but clawing their way back into it.
Offensively, Game 1 will likely be an aberration from the rest of this series for each side. The Bulls shot like they were in a March Madness Sweet 16 game at 32.3% overall. Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic combined to go 21-71 (29.6%) while the Bucks weren’t much better, shooting 40.5% as a team with 21 turnovers.
As good as Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams were defensively, Chicago will need more from each of them on the other end, assuming the starting lineup remains the same. They combined for just 10 field goal attempts in 56 minutes, putting even more pressure than usual on LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic. It would have been nice to see some more time for Coby White, who went 5-10 from the field and was a +4 in 22 minutes.
The Bulls were about as solid on Giannis Antetokounmpo as you could ask for. There weren’t a ton of easy baskets for him and he was mostly contained in transition. That said, there were times when the Bulls over-helped or double-teamed when it probably wasn’t necessary, leading to wide open 3-pointers. There were also instances where the Bulls forced the ball out of Giannis’s hands, rotated well, and got Milwaukee to take a contested 3-pointer, only to give up a killer offensive rebound.
Ball screens aren’t the only way to take advantage of the Bucks’ drop scheme. The Bulls ran a flare action for LaVine early in the 3rd quarter, using Vucevic as the screener to bring Brook Lopez into the play. It lead to a wide-open, catch-and-shoot 3-pointer for LaVine. That type of look is always preferable to a pull-up coming off a ball screen, and Chicago should try to run more of this action for LaVine and DeRozan. It will lead to cleaner looks and at the very least, provide those guys with a step or two head start on their defender.
Someone should probably tell Billy Donovan that you don’t get to carry challenges over into the next game. There were a couple plays where it seemed like a great opportunity to use it:
The brutal charge called on LaVine midway through the 3rd quarter, where Khris Middleton never stopped moving his feet. It was LaVine’s fourth foul and it seemed clear that the call would have been overturned.
Williams was called for a foul on what was a textbook box-out on Giannis at the 2:05 mark of the 4th quarter. It would have been Antetokounmpo 6th foul and certainly seemed worth another look.
Game 2 tips at 8:30pm on Wednesday, and we’ll see if the Bulls can find a way to steal one on the road.
Make sure to check out our Bulls forum for the latest on the team.