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Bulls vs. Bucks Game 3 Preview: Milwaukee faces uphill climb as series shifts home

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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Playoff basketball is back in Milwaukee. Take that in for a second. Feels good, right?

It is exciting, but it's met with an uphill climb. The series arrives in Milwaukee with the Bucks down 2-0 to the Chicago Bulls. If Milwaukee wants to pull off the upset, it would  be largely beneficial to hold serve and protect their home court.

But how much of their home court will be theirs? Bulls fans have a long history of making the cheaper trip up to Milwaukee to catch their team and are known for creating "United Center North," a virtual home court advantage for the road team. In the last regular season home game, a "Let's go Bulls!" chant erupted throughout the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

All that being said, this is the playoffs. There will still be a fair share of Bulls fans, but Bucks fans figure to also come out in droves, motivated to both drown out the opponent and root on their team. You could call all of this bothersome or annoying or whatever, but it's going to be energetic and it's going to be crazy. Tonight is going to be memorable.

What happened in Game 2

A few similar trends carried over from game one, most notably the Bucks' inability to make shots and the dominance of Derrick Rose (at least in the second half) and Jimmy Butler. Milwaukee shot under 40 percent (35.6%) for the game and, while the Bulls also shot under 40 percent (38.3%), Butler and Rose combined for 46 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists to give Chicago enough fuel to keep Milwaukee away. The Bucks' defense was significantly improved from game one, holding Chicago to 11 points in the first quarter and keeping them within striking distance for most of regulation until running out of steam and dropping game two 91-82.

Also, near the end of the game, Zaza Pachulia and Nikola Mirotic got in a eurofight. The result of the scrum saw Pachulia receive his second technical and an ejection, but also injured Mirotic, who will miss game 3 with a quad injury.

What needs to change for game 3

The Bucks offense needs to execute better if the Bucks want to extend this series. They improved schematically by increasing their paint touches in game two, but were a dismal 11-33 at the rim, headlined by Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo combining to go 1-12 in that area. Those touches and attempts are encouraging, but if the finishing clip can't be bumped up considerably, then the Bucks are going to have to live and die by jumpers. As we've seen in the first two games, that hasn't been going well, either.

Also, the Bucks have gotten away from what worked for them in the regular season a bit. As Alex Boeder of Bucks.com notes, the Bucks have been going one-on-one more and have seen their assist percentage go down from 62.7 percent to 52.7. They just can't accomplish much if they are doing that. It's easier said than done of course, but Milwaukee has to involve the whole team if they want to execute (and finish off) their offensive plan at a more successful clip.

What to watch for

So we've talked about improving the offense, but who is going to step up and be a key contributor in that improvement? Will MCW and Giannis finish better at the rim and knock down a few jumpers as well? Will the bench guys be able to knock down a few threes if they're open? Which Ersan will show up? Can Khris Middleton go from being steady to being something more?

An positive response to any of these questions will go a long way in aiding the Bucks' struggling offense. But the idea means nothing without execution. We'll see if the Bucks figure out a way to better execute tonight.

Game Info

2014/2015 NBA Postseason: Chicago leads 2-0
Milwaukee bucks.vadb4300
vs.
Chicago bulls.v1b392e9
April 23, 2015
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Chicago, IL
7:00 CT
NBA TV | Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Michael Carter-Williams PG Derrick Rose
Khris Middleton SG Jimmy Butler
Giannis Antetokounmpo SF Mike Dunleavy
Ersan Ilyasova PF Pau Gasol
Zaza Pachulia C Joakim Noah