When last the Milwaukee Bucks were taking on the Chicago Bulls, they were doing them a solid by playing each and every backup on the roster to finally let them take down their northern rival. Many months later, and these two teams are finally matched up once more, with the resurgent Bulls riding a wave of free agency signings that’s thrust them into relevance. Contention? I contend not, but this game should be a decent barometer in some regard. The prestige of the matchup is neutered some by missing players for the Bulls though.
Where We’re At
Doom, gloom and cloudy skies hovered over this Milwaukee Bucks team as they awaited the surging Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. They caught injury luck with four Grizz out in the health and safety protocols, but any win is a good win right now for this Bucks team. And with Memphis still boasting a healthy Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., I’d say topping them 126-114 wasn’t a small feat. The best news that came out of that win was the limited return of Jrue Holiday, who played 21 minutes off the bench and had nine points, five boards and four assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton led the way by combining for 60 points. And just one turnover for Khris.
On the Bulls side, they revamped their team in the offseason with the signings of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan. I was very skeptical it would click at all, but they’ve turned into a top-flight team in the Eastern Conference with one of the better groups of perimeter defenders around. It’s not their defense that’s carried them though, they have a top-five offense (per Cleaning The Glass) for the full year, with a middle of the road defense. With soft as jelly interior defense, that was always going to be the formula for this team: cook on offense and find mediocre on defense. It’s worked with aplomb, and DeMar has turned in probably the best season of his career. The good news for Milwaukee is that they shoot the second lowest percentage of shots from deep in the league, preferring to work their way into the midrange. That’s been a recipe for success in the past, but we’ve also seen teams up their three-point frequency against the Bucks since they give up so many. I’ll be curious to see where those numbers land. Their most recent win was a 117-104 win over Central Division foe, the Cleveland Cavaliers as Alex Caruso returned to the court. They had lost four in a row before that.
On the injury front, it’s a nearly clean bill of health for Milwaukee, just missing Brook Lopez.
As for Chicago, they’re down Lonzo Ball due to a meniscus injury, and he’ll be out some time.
Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball plans to undergo a procedure on his left knee this week, sources tell ESPN. Ball is expected to need four-to-six weeks to return. https://t.co/EWnbL7AX7T— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 20, 2022
They’re also missing standout guard Zach LaVine with a knee issue, along with role players like Javonte Green and Derrick Jones Jr. .Patrick Williams has already been out for some time and will continue to be.
Player to Watch
DeMar DeRozan is the pick here, if only because I’m curious how he’s working within this Bulls ecosystem. He’s gotten a lot of buzz, but if you look at his advanced numbers they’re all down a tick from last year including assist percentage, free throw rate, true shooting, etc. He is up to 25.7 points per game (on higher usage), but he’s obviously a killer from midrange with the potential to eat up a Bucks D that doesn’t stay in front of him.
Game 48: Against Chicago, the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
Win big (10 or more points)
Win close (9 or fewer points)
Lose close (9 or fewer points)
Lose big (10 or more points)