For a series billed as defense-first, game one of the first-round matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls featured a surprising amount of scoring. It was fair to wonder whether Milwaukee stood a chance in the series if their 4th-ranked defense couldn't slow down the Bulls, and Derrick Rose in particular.
Well, that defense showed up with a vengeance in game two...but unfortunately for Milwaukee, it didn't stick around. After 24 messy minutes in which both teams failed to top even 40% shooting from the field, Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler came alive in the second half to lead the Bulls to a 91-82 win in game 2. Butler led all scorers with 31 points on 10-19 shooting (8-14 FT), shaking off his team's slow start to dominate the fourth quarter. Rose didn't score in the first half but played terrific in the second, scoring 14 points after the break and showing off some excellent playmaking.
It's hard to find a performance for Milwaukee worth highlighting. Khris Middleton led the team with 22 points, but he wasn't particularly efficient (8-20 FG) after missing a number of shots in the Bucks' disastrous 4th quarter. Milwaukee actually started the final quarter with six quick points to take a 74-71 lead, but completely fell apart after that. Chicago ripped off a 13-2 run spearheaded by Butler while Milwaukee's offense completely dissolved.
There was no execution, no tempo, no obvious plan. Every possession seemed to end with a contested jumper or shot in traffic, and there was no effort to space the court with the ball movement that had set up better shots earlier in the game. It was the kind of performance that evokes inexperience, and it's hard to argue that fact in this case. The Bucks looked rushed before the game really got out of hand, and they looked flat-out panicked when things finally let loose.
- It's easy to chalk up a 38-point first half in which the Bucks shot just 33% to a "lack of execution," but the Bucks honestly played better on offense than those numbers would seem to indicate. Milwaukee missed a TON of shots at the rim, Giannis Antetokounmpo chief among the culprits. Giannis was able to get near the rim on multiple occasions but couldn't maneuver around the Bulls' long interior defenders. Those struggles at the rim also robbed Michael Carter-Williams of a few early assists, as the Bucks couldn't pay off good cuts and good passes with good baskets.
- The Bucks rarely lost track of Rose in the first half and he didn't help his own cause with a few rushed jumpers. But he looked seriously refreshed in the third quarter, scoring twelve points on a mixture of three-pointers and slashing layups. Maybe most impressive was Rose's passing, which set up a number of wide-open threes for Chicago. Milwaukee generally does a good job rotating after the ball, but they can't possibly keep up with Roses' skip passes (the same plays that burned them in game 1) on a consistent basis.
- The game wasn't lacking for intensity. A brief scuffle broke out in the first half after the Bulls took issue with John Henson's staredown of Aaron Brooks. Brooks had tried to take a charge near midcourt on Henson and got bowled over. Four players were assessed technical fouls on the play. Later, Zaza Pachulia was ejected after getting saddled with another technical following a minor dust-up with Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic appeared to be injured on the play as well and was forced from the game early.
- Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah weren't scoring threats tonight, but they combined for 45 rebounds between the two of them as Chicago dominated the defensive glass. The Bucks grabbed only 9 offensive boards despite missing 58 shots.
- Michael Carter-Williams was aggressive all game, but he wasn't always in control to match. His assist numbers would look better had the Bucks not bricked so many early shots, but MCW developed some pretty nasty tunnel vision when things got hairy late in the game. The Bucks desperately needed somebody to settle things down, but nobody seemed up to the task tonight.
- Giannis brought the sadness tonight.
I don't mind Giannis missing open looks, but being afraid to shoot is the last thing I want to see. Looks like he's in his offensive shell.— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) April 21, 2015
I'm pretty excited for Giannis to learn how a NBA fastbreak works.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) April 21, 2015
Giannis needs to figure out what he wants to do on offense. He's half-assing everything.— Dan Sinclair (@dan_sinclair) April 21, 2015
This is the biggest stage and the toughest environment Giannis has ever played in. There was always a chance he would struggle, and the bright side is that he managed 11 boards, four assists, two blocks and two steals to counteract some of his scoring troubles. Let's hope getting back in front of his home crowd puts the spring back in his step.