I hate that I was right, if you were to look back at the Playoff Roundtable we had. We were asked what chance we thought the Chicago Bulls had, and amusingly and happily, many suggested that the Bulls really didn’t have much of a chance. They were the team everybody wanted, they were the team that I wanted, but as the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics go up 2-0 on Atlanta and Brooklyn, the Milwaukee Bucks are heading to Chicago this Friday tied at 1-1.
I hate that we probably won’t have Khris Middleton for game three, and for those of you who were watching TNT and weren’t able to see the play the injury occurred on, remember that we still have games on Bally Sports Wisconsin too. I’m guessing I would have hated watching that version with the way the Bucks played last night. I also hate that the generic Middleton injury post from a separate site states that Pat Connaughton, Wesley Matthews and the Duke player I don’t name will be mitigating the loss of Middleton.
I don’t know what it was that led me to feeling this way, but something about the Bucks just hasn’t really looked right all season. Silly losses to teams like Portland without Damian Lillard at home, lots of turnovers, seemingly lackluster defense and a lack of a true wing stopper all came back to bite us last night. The Bucks just didn’t look like the playoffs Bucks, and that sucks because here we are.
I think we all agree that the offense right now is the problem. The Bucks actually have the best defense in the NBA’s postseason, and while a lot of that is awful offense from the Bulls (and Bucks) game one, I don’t think that side of the ball was that bad last night. First in opponent FG%, 3rd in 3PT%, they are averaging about the same number of rebounds as the Bulls, which is among postseason leaders. So some of the issue is on the Bulls’ lack of scoring in game one, but I don’t think that they were that great in game two offensively aside from DeMar DeRozan. I know they shot 48% from three last night, but that brings them to 30% overall this series. That’s third worst, and the reason why we encourage Giannis to keep chucking up threes is because he’s going to hit some with enough volume. The Bulls made up for game one in game two in that respect.
The offense for the Bucks is tied for 12th with Dallas and Utah so far, ahead of Chicago and Atlanta. Turnovers, though, have been an issue. The Bucks are 14th, surrounded by Atlanta, Brooklyn, Minnesota and New Orleans. In other words, the Bucks are the worst non-play-in team regarding turnovers by 3.5 per game. They technically only had 15 last night, and forced 12, but Jrue Holiday had six of them. Without Middleton, Holiday will need to be better. The Bucks are also just a tick above the Bulls in shooting from deep at 32.4%. Wesley Matthews outscored the bench, and had 11 points.
So how do they come back without the advantage in the series now without Middleton? I think it comes down to the other guys. Pat needs to step up, Bobby hopefully will be okay for Friday, and Wesley Matthews needs to hit more threes. But I think it comes down to the Caruso Crusader, our shooting guard from Duke who has started most of the season. He needs to have a big game or two, because when you average more fouls than points and assists combined through two games, you’re talking about Joel Pryzbilla* or Dan Gadzuric territory. If he makes up for no Middleton (presumably) tomorrow and a hobbled at best Middleton on Sunday, I will acknowledge his name. If he helps us get to Boston for game one of the Semifinals, I will forgive him for his sins against the Badgers.
*Side Note: I still remember that last game Pryzbilla played in, where he came in the game and almost immediately fouled someone. It was hilarious. How far we have come...
As for the outlook, Milwaukee didn’t have many longer winning streaks (over 4 games), they have mainly been on cruise control, and they just didn’t seem like they had it all season. Whatever it is. Still, without it they managed to win 51 games. They managed to be a top 5 offense. They swept these Bulls, and went 5-0 up until Wednesday night against the team that was best in the East until after the All-Star break. I think we all forgot that, and we also didn’t get to see this team with Patrick Williams and Alex Caruso most of our matchups. We’ve come a long way since the days of 2013 when we laughed at Brandon Jennings for saying “Bucks in 6” against the LeBron-Wade-Bosh-led Miami Heat.
In spite of my prediction that they would struggle at first, I also predicted that the Bucks would find their way back to realizing they were once again in the postseason. A loss like this would wake up a championship roster. I think the Bucks needed this, and it’s why I predicted it would happen. We saw signs of this coming in game one, and then in game two they blew it. But now, hopefully, they continue on in this series, and face the winner of Boston/Brooklyn afterwards, on the way to the Finals. My original prediction was, #BUCKSIN6 and we aren’t done yet. We still need one more loss for that to happen (although I’m happy with Bucks in five too). Hopefully I continue to be right.