The Chicago Bulls stole home-court advantage in their first-round series with the Bucks on Wednesday, pulling out a 114-110 win in Milwaukee. Same as after game 1, we’ll leave some notes and observations on the game below:
- The two teams reversed roles from the series opener, with Chicago throwing the first punch. The Bulls jumped out to a 9-0 lead, just as the Bucks did on Sunday, as Milwaukee turned it over on their first three possessions. The Bucks were a little sloppy and careless to start, and Chicago took full advantage.
- Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were surprisingly passive in the first half, combining to go just 4-9 for nine points. The second half didn’t get much better for either guy, for different reasons; Holiday finished 6-16 with six turnovers, while Middleton caught fire in the 3rd quarter, but reportedly sprained his MCL midway through the 4th, leaving his status for the remainder of the series unclear.
- In addition to Middleton’s injury, Bobby Portis took a shot from Tristan Thompson in the 1st quarter and was forced to leave the game for good with an eye injury. Portis presents problems for the Bulls with his versatility, able to play as a small-ball center or share the floor with Giannis Antetokounmpo/Brook Lopez. If Middleton and/or Portis are forced to miss anymore time, it would obviously be a massive blow to Milwaukee.
- The Bulls were about ready to implode late in the 3rd quarter. After holding a 16-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the period, Chicago went through a brutal stretch to close it. Antetokounmpo followed his own missed free throw for a putback dunk, Coby White threw the ball away, and Nikola Vucevic fouled Middelton on a jumper to set-up a four-point play. The lead was trimmed to just three with less than a minute in the quarter, and it felt like the game was slipping away. That’s when DeMar DeRozan came to the rescue, nailing a mid-range jumper over Middleton and knocking in a pair of free throws to close the quarter, giving the Bulls some much needed breathing room. Chicago carried that momentum to start the 4th, going on a 9-0 run to start the quarter, taking a 96-80 lead. DeRozan guaranteed he would have a better performance in game 2 after struggling in game 1, and he delivered, finishing 16-31 for 41 points in 44 minutes.
- Zach LaVine had a quiet 20 points as DeRozan went off, but both he and Vucevic both played very well in helping the Bulls snag a road win. LaVine was attacking early and helped set the tone with six of his 13 shot attempts coming in the paint, while remaining efficient from behind the arc, shooting 3-4 from deep. Meanwhile, Vucevic showed the three-level scoring that made him an all-star in Orlando, scoring in the paint, taking mid-range opportunities when the presented themselves, and converting 4-8 of his 3-point attempts. He tallied 24 points and 13 rebounds, finishing a +13 in 36 minutes.
- Performances like last night’s make it hard to believe that the Bulls were able to nab Alex Caruso at the price they did. To call him a “glue guy” is selling him short, but at times also feels appropriate because he seems to hold everything together, making whatever type of play Chicago needs at that moment. Swat the opponent’s center on a layup attempt? Sure. Set-up one of your go-to guys for a clean look with a gorgeous pass on the very next possession? No problem. Snag a massive offensive rebound when your team needs it the most, helping to seal the deal? You got it. Draw an offensive foul to cap things off and close the show? Consider it done. Caruso finished with 10 assists to just one turnover and was a game-high +16 in 38 minutes. He defended whoever the Bulls asked him to, spending time on Middleton, Holiday, and even Antetokounmpo. The week-long break the Bulls had before the playoffs began seems to have done wonders for his nagging injuries.
- Patrick Williams had a much better showing than his game 1 performance, appearing much more comfortable on the big stage. He had a steal and dunk in the first minute, which seemed to get him going. He played much more decisively and aggressively than he did on Sunday, particularly off the dribble, finishing 5-9 for 10 points and nine rebounds.
With the series now tied 1-1, the Bulls will host Milwaukee at the United Center for game 3 at 7:30pm Friday.
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