5 observations: Bulls narrowly miss Game 1 upset by Bucks – eButies
the Chicago Bulls entered its first-round playoff series with the Bucks as heavy underdogs.
A 93-86 road loss in Game 1, then, stings. The Bulls trailed by three points in the final minute, but were tipped by Nikola Vucevic rim out and a 3-point try tying the game by Zach LaVine veer off as Brook Lopez’s floats kept the defending champions afloat.
“They made a few more winning plays than us in the end,” LaVine said of Milwaukee.
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Whether the defeat will be remembered as an excruciating missed opportunity or a foreshadowing of a competitive series to come remains to be seen.
In the meantime, here are five observations:
The bulls hold on
The Bucks wasted no time in asserting their dominance in this one, jumping on a 9-0 run to start the game and forcing a timeout from Billy Donovan 93 seconds into the game. That deficit reached 16 in first half, but the Bulls responded encouragingly, winning the second quarter 22-17 to trail 51-43 at halftime after losing the first 34-21.
More encouraging: this run not only continued, but intensified in the third quarter. First, it was LaVine who scored seven points and made his first three field goal attempts. Then, when he went off with a foul issue, Vučević stepped in and scored eight straight points to move the Bulls 64-56 level. The sequel was Coby Whitewho drained a 3-pointer and a layup to push the Bulls ahead 69-64.
Those three points combined for 26 of the Bulls’ 28 points in the third quarter, which topped the Bucks’ 23. Although Milwaukee finished on a 10-2 run, the host’s 74-71 lead entering the fourth was hardly dominant. This marks a departure from these teams’ last two regular season matchups, when the first Bucks snowballed into blowouts.
“We didn’t give up,” LaVine said. “Before (in previous clashes with the Bucks), at the start, there are certain points in the game that we would hang our heads over. We had a good conversation (tonight). Everyone was encouraging each other. »
The momentum of the game nearly tipped when LaVine committed his fourth personal foul at 6:42 of the third quarter. Trailing 62-56, the Bulls guard went for a quick layup, but Khris Middleton slipped in to fire a charge – a bang-bang play that Donovan decided not to challenge, but s It finally turned into a four-point swing when Giannis Antetokounmpo rinsed home a dunk on the other end.
“Our guys behind the bench thought it was a charge,” Donovan said after the game. “So I didn’t bother to challenge it. I thought about it, but with the way the match was going, losing a challenge and potentially not having it at the end of the match, I just didn’t feel like it.
The Bulls’ run continued after LaVine’s exit, but that foul, along with his fifth challenge to a Bobby Portis backhand early in the fourth, limited him to 14 minutes in the second half after playing 22 in the first. LaVine missed all six field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, including a 31-foot pull-up with 29.7 seconds left that would have tied the game 89-89.
“It didn’t get me out of rhythm,” LaVine said of his big issues. “It just took me out of the game when I didn’t want to.”
LaVine wasn’t the only star of the game to threaten the six-foul limit, however. Antetokounmpo also landed his fifth early in the fourth – at 8:14, to be exact – after Alex Caruso slid out to draw a charge as he attempted to drive late into the shot clock. It was important because the Bucks, at the time, were plus-16 in Antetokounmpo’s minutes and minus-15 with him off the field.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was then forced to swing Antetokounmpo in and out of the game during the streak. Although Antetokounmpo went scoreless in seven minutes in the fourth quarter, he narrowly avoided a foul when patrick williams was called for a loose ball foul that could easily have been an over the back pass with 2:05 to go.
“I thought it was over the back, but it was from my angle,” Donovan said. “I think one of the things we have to do in these playoff games is we have to move on to the next game.”
The 3-point line appeared as an incoming X factor in this series. The Bucks allowed by far the most 3-point attempts per game this regular season, while the Bulls took by far the fewest – and after their All-Star break saw their percentage plummet.
Neither team was able to hit the wide side of a barn from long range in this one. The Bucks finished the contest 10 for 38 (26.3%) from beyond the arc, the Bulls 7 for 38 (18.9%), which added to a decidedly unmodern line of sight from 17 to 75 between the two.
It can be taken in two ways. For one, the Bulls’ “Big Three” of Vučević (9 for 27), DeRozan (6 for 25), and LaVine (6 for 19) shot a combined 21 for 71, which DeRozan promised to do. does not happen again.
“I don’t know what was going on. Probably the rest week. It just wasn’t me,” DeRozan said of his shooting struggles. “Every shot I took felt good. I guarantee Zach or Vooch won’t miss as many shots again. We just have to keep what we did defensively and take it to another level.
But on the other hand, many of Milwaukee’s 28 missed 3-point attempts were clean looks by skilled shooters, while the Bulls’ track record from long range is less assured. What is certain is that those looks are going to be there for the Bulls – and Vučević, in particular, who shot 2 for 10 from deep – all series, and they will have to do more.
Donovan and DeRozan each credited the Bulls’ defensive intensity as a key factor in being able to stay in the game after a slow start.
“We were on a channel tonight. We worked extremely hard all week to come together, communicate and understand the missions,” DeRozan said. “And tonight we came out and showed it. We were everywhere helping each other, reading plays before this happened.
And that’s true. The Bulls forced 21 turnovers from Bucks in this one and scored 15 points on them. Ten of those turnovers were stolen — DeRozan, Caruso and Williams each had several — and 16 were attributable to the Bucks’ Big Three of Middleton (7), Antetokounmpo (5) and Jrue Holiday (4). As a team, indeed, the Bulls drew three offensive fouls on Antetokounmpo.
“I thought our guys were physical,” Donovan said while acknowledging that Milwaukee missed a few open looks. “What I appreciated about our team tonight was that I thought we put our bodies, noses and faces into the games.”
Maintaining the league’s third regular season offense at 93 points is an encouraging start to a streak the Bulls will have to get dirty to have a chance. But the formula must endure.
DeRozan (43), Vučević (39) and LaVine (37), even fighting fouls, each cleared 37 minutes. Donovan turned to Derrick Jones Jr. on several occasions – once in a very small duo with Javonte Green (who was a plus-2 in about two minutes of action), and again in the second half alongside Vučević .
But the biggest ripple was the near exclusion of Ayo Dosunmu. The rookie keeper played an average of 32 minutes after Christmas and hadn’t played less than 10 in a game since late November before recording nine in this one.
“I have a lot of faith in Ayo,” Donovan said. “But I think at this point in the playoffs, especially with two days between games, you’re going to watch Vooch, you’re going to watch DeMar, you’re going to watch Zach and their minutes are going to be a lot higher.
That, plus solid play from Jones Jr. and White (12 points, two 3-pointers) led to Donovan making the adjustment.
Next step: game 2 on Wednesday.
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