Two days after a thrilling finish kept their playoff hopes alive, the Bucks return to Chicago on Monday hoping to prove they're not just a one win wonder. The odds are of course stacked against them, but the same was also true on Saturday night, when legions of Bulls fans trekked to the BMO Harris Bradley Center expecting to see their team roll over the Bucks and complete a series sweep.
It didn't happen.
But while Chicago couldn't pull it out on Saturday, the Bucks will certainly have their work cut out for them against a Bulls team that should be plenty motivated to make amends in front of their (real) home crowd tonight.
What Happened in Game 4
Oh, nothing much.
Despite being held under 40% shooting from the field for the third time in four games, the Bucks staved off elimination by forcing an absurd 28 turnovers and piling up a huge 47-13 advantage in bench points. O.J. Mayo (18 points) carried the Bucks for long stretches of the fourth, and the Bucks earned a chance to win it by forcing Derrick Rose into his eighth turnover on what seemed like the last possession of the game. Jason Kidd shrewdly called timeout just as Khris Middleton was on the verge of launching a 60-foot heave, allowing the Bucks to set up Jared Dudley's incredible pass to Jerryd Bayless with 1.3 seconds remaining.
Jimmy Butler was unstoppable with 33 points on 17 shots, and the Bulls generally torched the Bucks...when they weren't turning it over. Alas, that didn't happen often enough, as the Bucks attempted 19 more field goals and two more free throws in game four.
What Needs to Change for Game 5
How about making some shots?
The Bucks finished the regular season with a team eFG% of 49.9%, yet they've been held to 45.1% or worse in each of the four games against the Bulls thus far, highlighting just how well Chicago has bottled up the Bucks offensively. Michael Carter-Williams' struggles have been notable, as he's hitting under 40% of his shots from the field and just 50% from the line for a true shooting mark of just 39.7%.
Unfortunately MCW has plenty of company -- in fact his raw FG% of 38.6% is actually third on the team. From an efficiency standpoint, Giannis hasn't been much better (42.9% true shooting), and the young trio of MCW (41.7% inside three feet), Giannis (44.4%) and Khris Middleton (45.5%) have all been miserable finishing at the rim. Chicago deserves a lot of credit -- John Henson and Jared Dudley are the only Bucks hitting better than 39% from the field right now -- though we've also seen the Bucks miss chippies even when the Bulls haven't been able to challenge them. So, uh, how about some improvement in the layup department?
Improvement from the Bucks' starting five would also go a long way to giving the Bucks a chance to extend the series. After outscoring opponents by 9.9 pts/100 possessions during the regular season, the Bucks starting five has been outscored by nearly 12 pts/100 in the first round. It stood to reason that the Bucks' depth would have to play a critical role in the series, but the starters have unfortunately been completely overwhelmed thus far.
What to Watch For
Butler has been brilliant throughout the series, but Rose has thus far been much more of a mixed bag despite his generally excellent numbers overall (21.5 ppg, 7.5 apg, .455/.462/.933 shooting). He was brilliant in games one and three, but struggled through long stretches of games two and four and took the blame for allowing Bayless to get free for Saturday's game-winner. Thus, which Rose shows up on Monday will go a long way to deciding whether the Bucks are still alive on Tuesday.
The Bulls' turnover problems (19.0 per game) have thus far has been a team effort, and it's difficult to imagine the Bucks extending the series without another sloppy night from Tom Thibodeau's men. Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago reports the Bulls are well aware of the issue, though it's curiously not gotten better over the course of the series.
"You got to give them credit," Dunleavy said of the Bucks' defense, before revealing where his frustration really stemmed from. "But for whatever reason ... we're not understanding the spacing and where we need to be and where we're coming from. After four games, it's like it's getting worse. It should be getting better. We'll take a look at the film again, but we either got to get it by now, or I don't know when it's going to happen because we have a bunch of guys who just want to hold the ball.
"We got plenty of guys that can make plays, make shots, so to sit there and hold the ball and let them strip you, just doesn't make sense."
For the Bucks, the biggest question will be the same as always: Who can make shots when they need them most? MCW has struggled mightily, while Giannis and Middleton have also only gotten theirs in fits and starts. Of that three, only Middleton played a part in the fourth quarter on Saturday, which isn't exactly the blueprint for how the Bucks want to win games. Jason Kidd continues to keep the Bucks calm, but at some point his key players are going to have to produce.
|2014/2015 NBA Postseason: Chicago leads 3-1|
|April 27, 2015|
|United Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|TNT | Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|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|
On the Bulls: Blog a Bull | ESPN Chicago