|Ersan Ilyasova, PF 24 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -6 +/-
The playoffs are tough. There are potentially only a few games and a guy like Ersan is only going to get so many opportunities to make a difference. The sample size is minuscule, so it’s probably unfair to judge him when he shoots poorly. But he’s 1-8 on threes in two games and there’s no question that’s hurt Milwaukee. He’s one of very few threats they have out there and he hasn’t been able to cash in on his opportunities. Should he be getting more opportunities? Given the way the Bucks have struggled to score points, maybe it would be better if they could find him outside a few more times for sure. But they seem to do that when he’s making shots more than they do when he’s missing.
His performance was a stark contrast to Chicago’s Mike Dunleavy Jr., who helped swing this game in Chicago’s favor by hitting 4-9 3FG. Dunleavy is now 7-14 on threes in the series. Specialists have to come through in the playoffs, especially for underdogs.
|Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF 38 MIN | 2-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 11 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -1 +/-
He spent the first quarter attacking, even if things weren’t always going his way. He attempted five shots in the first and four were within a few feet of the rim. When he had the ball in the half court, he often got to the rim, where he was faced with some challengers that made life difficult. But a couple of his misses early on were shots he typically makes. As the game went on though, he wasn’t able to get his usual head of steam heading towards the rim. Chicago did a good job of staying in front of him when he had the ball and staying aware of him when he didn’t, which kept him off the free throw line too.
Transition opportunities never really materialized for him either, partly due to Chicago limiting their turnovers a bit more than they did Saturday (19 in game one, 13 in game two). Overall, it was a tough offensive night for Giannis, but what he was doing wasn’t so bad. Despite his issues finishing, he still turned in a fairly well rounded game and helped give Milwaukee something at the four, where he spent a lot of time.
|Zaza Pachulia, C 23 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -2 +/-
Right from the start he made a much bigger impact defensively, just by getting in the way of driving Bulls guards. He also seemed to be a big influencer in Milwaukee’s overall more physical approach to the game, right down to the two technical fouls that led to his ejection. Both techs seemed iffy and the first one was truly costly. Milwaukee had just scored to get within five with four minutes to play when Zaza was called for pushing his elbow and forearm into the head of Nikola Mirotic. A free throw and a Jimmy Butler three later and the game was practically over.
Milwaukee needs Zaza to be physical and intimidating and all of those things. Chicago’s bigs are huge and Pachulia is Milwaukee’s best chance of striking back. But he’s got to find a way to walk the line a little more delicately on Thursday.
|Michael Carter-Williams, PG 33 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -6 +/-
It’s weird his finished the game with only two assists, because it felt like he was moving the ball a lot more than he did in game one. In particular, he threw a no-look pass into Ersan early on that was as exciting as any pass I’d ever seen him make. Ersan missed the layup, but it was an encouraging bit of creativity. MCW got quite a bit more help with Derrick Rose in this one too and helped limit his output. He challenged when Rose shot threes and was able to recover quickly when Bucks bigs slowed Rose down after screens.
|Khris Middleton, SG 38 MIN | 8-20 FG | 3-3 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | -13 +/-
He’s practically Milwaukee’s shining beacon of offensive success. No other Bucks player cracked the 12 point “barrier” on a particularly barren offensive night – even for the Bucks. Alas, even Middleton was not immune to Milwaukee’s horrible fourth quarter, as he went just 1-6 in the final period. Otherwise, it was good to see the Bucks understand where their offense is going to come from and consistently get the ball in the hands of Middleton and it was good to see him be aggressive whenever he got even a little bit of space.
|Jared Dudley, SF 17 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +2 +/-
His first half was far better than his second half. His only three came in the first, along with three of his four steals. He battled Nikola Mirotic admirably and was an actual physical presence on the defensive end. Plus, he was basically always on the court with Giannis and Henson, so he didn’t have to deal with Chicago’s most physical big men and wasn’t really exposed as a rebounder. Game two was better than game one, but Dudley still wasn’t able to contribute much as a shooter, where he’s so desperately needed.
|John Henson, C 25 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -7 +/-
He was very, very active throughout the game. He tipped out a number of rebounds early on, he ran over Aaron Brooks and set off a slew of technical fouls and he converted on a few of his patented pillowy soft left-handed hooks around the basket. With the game tied 74-74 he even blocked what looked like it was going to be a sure thing Joakim Noah layup. At the time that seemed like a potential crucial play. It’s lost now, but that was the sort of big time defensive play that only Henson can make for Milwaukee.
|Jerryd Bayless, PG 15 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -3 +/-
In a more limited role, Bayless was able to hit half of his shots and give the Bucks a little bit of offensive punch. Again, he didn’t do a great job of getting his teammates any looks, but he was able to create some offense for himself at least, which was no small feat for the Bucks on Monday night.
|O.J. Mayo, SG 27 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -9 +/-
He’s probably going to have Jimmy Butler nightmares for a while. He was guarding him frequently in the fourth quarter as the Bulls guard got hot and hit one three after the next. There was little Mayo could do when Butler was so willing to step back and hit threes off the dribble. Offensively, Mayo chipped in a pair of fourth quarter floaters that the team desperately needed, but was otherwise largely absent once again.
Four Things We Saw
- This was more in line with the Bucks we’ve seen over the course of the second half of the season especially. Milwaukee defended very well, played with great intensity and made life difficult for Chicago’s offense. But the Bucks offense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Milwaukee closed the game by making just three of its final 15 shots. It’s possible that Chicago’s served as a deterrent, because the Bucks were brutal inside all game:
- Jimmy Butler. Holy hell. Chicago went just 6-22 in the fourth quarter, but Butler was 4-5 from the field (3-3 3FG). He finished with 31 points and was essentially the difference, as Milwaukee corralled Derrick Rose (15 points) much more effectively than they did in game one. Butler drove through Milwaukee’s defense a few times to get to the rim late, but mainly he made difficult 3-pointers that weren’t going to be defended.
- Things got chippy. There were seven technical fouls handed out. Pachulia was tossed. Tempers flared. Playoffs! It added a little something to the game. It’s still unclear to me why Henson trucked Brooks, then stood over him before Noah came to the aid of his teammate, but I don’t mind seeing the Bucks playing with a little edge. There’s no reason to be nice.
- The Bucks lost this game, but they played a style that’s more in line with what they’ve done when they’ve been successful this season. Defensively Milwaukee looked like a completely different team in game two than they did in game one. That’s a great thing. Offensively, they’ve struggled since the first quarter ended in game one. Some things need to be worked out on that end and it’s possible it won’t happen. But if Milwaukee can play this kind of defense again and find a way to force a few more turnovers while playing this sort of defense, there going to be in the game all night again on Thursday.