The first one to 94 series: Bucks – Bulls preview

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A one-picture summary of the Bucks’ rebounding this season (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

After signing a two-year, $6.5 million contract with the Bulls in the offseason, Mike Dunleavy has rebounded from a slow start to put together a typical productive Dunleavy season. For the season, he is coming off the bench to average 8.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, and he’s at a Dunleavy-esque 42.2% from three-point range. In a triple-overtime game against New Orleans last week, he registered 23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals (in 48 minutes!)

In an interview with K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Dunleavy spoke about the Bulls’ season while taking a not-so-veiled  dig at the Bucks team he played on last season.

“This is going to sound crazy, but this season has been pleasant for me,” Dunleavy said. “To be able to compete and have a chance every night and go into the game thinking you’re going to win, it’s a big change for me. I’ve been on some pretty dysfunctional teams.

“We do a lot of things well, particularly at the defensive end. We also usually rebound well. We have to shore up our 3-point defense. We’ve been in a lot of close games that could go either way. You can make those games up over the course of an 82-game season.”

Oddly, Dunleavy has never played for a team that finished the regular season with a 0.500 or better record.  The Bulls, winners of 62, 50, and 45 games the past three seasons, are currently 8-10.

What to Watch For: Bucks

Foul trouble.  They can’t afford it.

With only ten players and three regular rotation bigs, the Bucks need Ekpe Udoh, Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson to stay in the game as much as possible.  Otherwise, they will get stuck with mismatches like Khris Middleton trying to box out Carlos Boozer or Miroslav Raduljica trying to run with Joakim Noah in transition.

What to Watch For: Bulls

The Bulls are 2-7 over their last nine games, including a 1-5 road trip on which Derrick Rose hurt his knee.  With Rose out for the season, the Bulls have resorted to a starting backcourt of Tony Snell and Kirk Hinrich. Normally, head coach Tom Thibodeau likes to squeeze every last second out of his starters, but he’ll likely spell this crew with lots of Dunleavy and Marquis Teague.

Teague, though, is struggling with his shot — he’s shooting 22.9% from the field this season.

Logistics:

Time – 7:00 PM Central

TV – FS-Wisconsin

Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Zaza Pachulia (right foot fracture; out), Caron Butler (sore left knee; out), Gary Neal (left foot plantar fasciitis; out), Larry Sanders (thumb; out), Carlos Delfino (foot surgery; out)

Bulls: Luol Deng (left calf; day-to-day) and Mike James (right knee; day-to-day), Jimmy Butler (right toe; out), Derrick Rose (right knee; out).

Projected Lineups

Bucks:

PG Brandon Knight

SG O.J. Mayo

SF Khris Middleton

PF Ekpe Udoh

John Henson

Bulls:

PG Kirk Hinrich

SG Tony Snell

SF Taj Gibson

PF Carlos Boozer

C Joakim Noah

Jeremy’s For Recreational Purposes Only Prediction (aka Betsketball)

Line: Bulls -8

Over/Under: 182

The Bucks depth issues actually make them moderately more intriguing. For one, they can pull together and use an absence of players as a motivational tactic. “We’ll show the Bulls … we’ll show everyone!” they’ll say. Also, young players are going to be front and center all night, which has generally made the Bucks a better team this season.

But still, the Bulls have been stomping the Bucks the past few years, a monster comeback that one time notwithstanding. I’ll take the Bulls -8 and the under.

(Quick note: I did not do the prediction you see later in this preview, that explains any inconsistency there.)

Record: 13-9 (5-6 ATS and 8-3 over/under)

Choose the Form of the Destructor:

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Over his last three games, Gibson has averaged 22.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.  In his last game against the Bucks, he had 14 points and 9 rebounds and scorched a +/- rating of +16 in 33 minutes.

If Deng doesn’t play, Gibson will be the starting small forward in a front line with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. It’s tough to see the Bucks holding their ground under the glass with that group.  If they do, though, they’ll have a fair shot at a win.

Prediction: Bucks 93 – Bulls 91

Categories: Game Previews

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1 Comment

  1. This could be a fun challenge for Coach Drew to find ways of compensating for his lack of bulk and depth in the front line. Besides my recurring theme of wanting to see more of Miroslav (20 minutes), I’d like to see a lot of Giannis (30 minutes); I wonder if Giannis could come up from behind the Bulls’ big men for some swats, for example. I don’t know how the Bulls are from three, but maybe we could pack the paint and have one of our better defenders guard the best deep shooter for the Bulls one-on-one. Another strategy I like is to mix things up to hinder the Bulls from finding a good rhythm.
    Anyway, at a record of 4-16, the Bucks have a certain freedom to be, not reckless, but a creative and even a little crazy, in who they play and how they play them. Let’s try some things! A team focused primarily on playing it’s young guys — and emphasizing hustle, heart, teamwork and enthusiasm — could be a lot of fun to watch this season. It also might win more games along the way than expected.