Hope in defeat: Bulls 91 – Bucks 82

Milwaukee Bucks 82 Final
Recap | Box Score
91 Chicago Bulls
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.

FourĀ Things We Saw

  1. 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:


  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Categories: Playoff talk,Recaps

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  1. With respect, outside of Middleton, how can anyone else on the Bucks get a B or higher? The Bulls are a playoff tested, and mentally stronger team than the Bucks. They’ve endured 3 years of no Derrick Rose. Zaza and Henson need to keep their cool. They may very well have awoken a sleeping giant with their antics. It’s one thing to play physical, but for a 7 footer to stand over a (very generous) 6 footer like Brooks? Real tough. And Zaza is a vet. He should know better. Now they have targets on their heads for being instigators.

    • Giannis deserved a c-. He needs to contribute more if he’s going to play 38 minutes. He seemed to still have playoff jitters and at times was forcing shots instead of just running a good offense. Biggest problem is neither Giannis nor Erson played the greatest and that will be hard for Bucks to win if they do not give more.

    • Agree. There are two players for us who I would say played well – Middleton and MCW. As Jeremy noted, Carter-Williams moved the well but our players who we depend on for scoring simply aren’t making shots. Those two were also the only to who took 10+ shots and made at least 40% of them. The good news is they’re 2 of our 3 most important players.

      But this is the story of the series so far:

      The Bucks in this series so far are 4-17 on wide open threes (nearest defender > 6 feet away) and 4 of 14 on open threes (4-6 feet).

    • It seemed like Brooks was trying to take an offensive foul on John in the middle of the court in a really cheap way. In other words, John was loping down the court on offense, just past midcourt, and Brooks just stood in his way when John wasn’t looking. It seemed really bush league, terrible sportsmanship, the kind of thing that could get Brooks punched out in a pickup game.

      Then another Bulls player seemed to do basically the same thing later in the game, setting off another skirmish.

      I very interested in what others saw, because I’m not sure I’ve heard any commentators describe what happened in this way. Maybe I’m wrong — but if I’m right, it’s the Bulls who were the instigators, in a very irritating manner that makes the Bulls look very unprofessional and petty.

      Also, from what I could see, the technical fouls on Zaza were terrible calls.

    • Realistically, the Bucks were in this game for 45 minutes. Is that such a bad performance? They shot poorly, but the game is played on both ends.

  2. I have to say the T’s on Zaza were complete bush league. The first one okay if you’re really reaching you could T him as a ref to set an example that the game won’t be allowed to be played like that. But the second was ridiculous. He supposed to just sit there and get assaulted? If that is the case then physical instigating is now condoned and if Noah has a T or Butler has a T then Kidd should just throw Ennis or O’Bryant in there and have them shove one of their guys who has already gotten a T in order to get the second called resulting in them getting tossed. The way Zaza’s was handled was terrible. Bucks pulled within what 6-7 points? The Mirotic T would have (possibly) gave Bucks another point and possession to possibly cut the lead down to 4-5 with roughly 1:50 left. Good chances? No. But that is how it should have been called especially on review.

    • I call bullshit. The first T was blatant and it is very clear from the rules that actions above the neck, especially in a non-basketball way, will not be tolerated.

      For the second one….were the Bulls reaching for the ball and potentially fouling Pachulia? Sure, definitely could see that. Did Pachulia then react by acting like he was trying to throw the ball over his head (why would he do this?) and purposefully try to hit Mirotic in the head/face? Absolutely, no question. He is a dirty player. He has that distinction from his career. No use in trying to call it something different, just own up to it.

      • The way I saw it:

        1st tech: The only reason that Zaza hit him above the neck is because Mirotic bent over so that his head was at elbow level.

        2nd tech: Mirotic tried to pull Zaza to the ground; Zaza went to the ground but stuck his elbow out and it hit Mirotic in the face. Mirotic got pissed and pushed Zaza. Zaza responded. Double tech. I’m fine with that one. The first one seemed a bit silly though.

      • Do you watch basketball much? You obviously know nothing about basketball and how sometimes incidental contact happens as well as knowing nothing about how some players when taking a contact will do what is called a “flop” (you may have heard of this) in order to draw a foul incase one isn’t called. Zaza did a bit of a flop when he had the ball in that wild scramble with Mirotic. There was no attempt to hit him in the head or face. If you really want to call it something maybe it was also a flop from being crawled on and he wanted to draw a foul from that and also give a little buck to get the guy off him. Sometimes guys do that when they are on their feet in the post when posting guys up or playing defense. Thats what it was and I’m not calling it anything different because that isn’t what Zaza got the technical foul from. He got the technical from pushing back after Mirotic pulled a little cry baby move of pushing him in the back. Which the like Saul said if there will always be double technicals from now on anytime an opposing player has one Kidd may as well put in a scrub to “take a fall” and shove or elbow said opposing player and get the double technical called and him tossed. It was a crap call and if you don’t see that then again – You must not watch much bball. Lastly get off a Bucks fan page if you’re such a hater.

  3. Most importantly, kudos to MCW for being a pass-first point in a truly impressive way; to John Henson for oustanding energy, agility, aggressiveness and scoring; and to Khris for his usual excellent involvement in the game and increasingly diverse scoring repertoire.

    It drives me crazy that coach Kidd is so attached to veterans Jerryd, O.J., Jared, Zaza, and Ers. All of those guys have played some good basketball this season, but Kidd overdoes it with them. For example, Zaza is excellent as a crafty substitute center, but much less as a starter and the main guy at that position. Any of these guys, and perhaps all of them, could be valuable complimentary players on the Bucks, but Kidd generally overplays them to the point where they become much less effective. In related news, zero minutes thus far for Miles and Jorge; I know these guys aren’t all-stars, but I’d really like to give them a chance to contribute, along the lines I’ve mentioned in past comments.

    Finally, I haven’t payed attention this season to Kidd’s strategy on defense, but now I’m wondering if he has guys running around too much in ways that often aren’t that effective — for example, leaving good opposing shooters open at the arc. I’m also wondering if our guys are wearing down too much during the game, and are gassed in the fourth quarter, contributing to poor shooting percentages down the stretch. I’m hoping someone at Bucksketball and/or some fans — who are better at observing and analyzing things like this — could help me out here.

    • Kidd likes to play an almost over compensating help defense with traps and such forcing teams to make high cross court passes rather than close into the lane to people cutting or posting up. It’s somewhat effective and helps create sloppy play or turnover opportunities, but when guys like Butler or Dunleavy are hitting everything it can hurt. I do think Kidd needs to find a way to defend against the pick n roll better next game. It just seems like the Bucks players can’t fight through the screens very well. Hopefully they come up with a solution. But yeah if a guy is going to torch them on 3’s I think maybe staying closer and giving themselves a better opportunity to recover when a pass goes to the open guy beyond the arc’s way might be the best choice. If that made sense at all..

    • In regard to Kidd’s defensive strategy, I would say the open shooters are just a result of good ball movement from the Bulls and the Buck’s inability to rotate over in time/rotate correctly (at least from this game). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what he’s having them do defensively since a rotating team defense is pretty much the only way to go in this league. Guys are going to get tired with that style of defense, but I don’t think we could keep up offensively even with fresher legs.

    • So from what I’m reading, and I appreciate the comments, I’m wondering if Kidd’s defense is less effective against experienced and better teams who take good care of the ball and pass well.

      What if the Bucks simplified on defense, covering the shooters at the arc closely, with the rest of the defense packing the paint? In other words, let’s try to force the Bulls to take two-point shots inside the arc and outside the lane. Is there a way in which this could work, while saving our defenders a lot of energy?

      Since our forwards and guards, with the exception of Khris, are shooting poorly from the outside, or at least inconsistently, it makes a lot of sense to me to go bigger with more combinations of John with Zaza or Miles. I know I say this a lot, but with the Bulls being so big up front, doesn’t this make any sense?

      I agree that the Bulls are probably a significantly better team, but I’m not ready to concede the series yet: plus, even if we lose, I want to make the most of this playoff experience. Please, guys and gals, keep thinking of ways the Bucks can be their best in this playoff series. Let’s not give up! I’m really hoping that coach Kidd is open to changing things up with players and strategies.

      • yeah forcing them to take long range twos would be very ideal. I also think Kidd’s defense is making teams settle for shooting far shots like 3’s which at times works. Bucks do have the 2nd best defensive rating. I think Chicago hitting a high amount of shots just makes the defense seem worse than it is. I still refuse to believe they will keep shooting like that. Heck even in the fourth quarter the Bulls were 6-22 and Butler alone 4-5. But yes Swisch it’s their guards who are lighting us up not the inside game like we’ve seen in the past. Hopefully adjustments will be made.

  4. Lets face it …there is just a large talent disparity between the two teams…i love Giannis and Khris but Giannis hasnt fully developed his outside shot and they are honing in on Khris…we are just too young and we can bank on next year being vastly better with inglis and jabari being back…we desperately need a shooting guard though…you cant win a playoff series with “Shane Battier” as your leading scorer…also Jeremy is biased with Giannis so i doubt we will ever get honest review of him

    • Honestly, I don’t think Jeremy’s being biased w/ Giannis. [Normal caveats about one game +/-] the Bucks played significantly better with him in than with him on the bench, he created a ton of open looks for people and would have had more assists if the rest of the team was making shots, and generally did everything you could ask of him except make his freaking layups. When he was in early int he 2nd our bench actually extended the lead, when Kidd took him out for Middleton, the bench collapsed in a hail of terrible Mayo/Bayless shots.

  5. This game could have been won if the Bucks had just been able to convert a few more shots near the rim. Giannis and Ilyasova both missed easy looks in the early going, and the latter absolutely needs to start hitting his shots. Ersan is getting open a lot, but he has to start making them or the Bucks have no chance.

    Defensively the Bucks played about as well as anyone could have hoped. Butler was just making some absolutely ridiculous shots down the stretch. Nobody, not Giannis, Mayo, Middleton, no one has been able to really slow him down.

    Still, if that defensive effort persists in Game 3 and the team can just start hitting their open/easy looks, the Bucks have a good opportunity to make this a series.

  6. Couch Potato Scout

    Does anyone else feel like there were a bunch of no-calls when the Bucks drove to the basket, especially in the 4th quarter? I feel like there were a bunch of times they could have called fouls on the Bulls when Giannis, Middleton, or MCW drove to the basket.
    Also, to the Zaza technical foul debate: I agree with Chu (haha), the first time it was a good job on Mirotic’s part to duck down enough so that Zaza’s arm hit him in the back of the head. The only critique I had is, why was Zaza leading with his elbow? Couldn’t he have just used his forearm instead? I think that might have avoided a tech
    And for his second tech: I think that although Mirotic was pulling Zaza back, it was pretty obvious Zaza overacted moving all his weight back to Mirotic would fall back and hit his head. I fee like it should have been a personal foul on both, with a warning.
    But either way it was great seeing the Bucks show some toughness, especially the young guys.
    Lastly, I still believe that Giannis should be demanding the ball and doing his Euro Step layup/dunk everytime someone other than Jimmy Butler is guarding him. I think there is no excuse we he can’t blow by Mirotic when he is guarding him, or when he pulls the ball out on fastbreaks. I wish he would be a little more assertive on fastbreaks, even if it means forcing a shot, I felt like there were plenty of chances for him to attack and get an And1.

    • He should be taking advantage more on the fast breaks and defensive mismatches. He just has to be mindful of the charges he seems to be getting a lot lately