No Khris Middleton, no problem for Friday night’s Milwaukee Bucks, as they absolutely dismantled the Chicago Bulls on the defensive end of the court, while showing improved offensive flow en route to a decisive 111-81 win. They now have a 2-1 series advantage.
The Bucks started this game with significantly more energy on both ends of the court, nailing triples from the perimeter and providing contests on all but Vucevic’s jumpers while getting out to a 33-17 lead. They maintained that same defensive presence and kept up their shooting in the second quarter as they built a solid 60-41 advantage by half. In a twist of fate, the third quarter was friendly to the Bucks, holding Chicago to just 18 points as they built up a 90-59 lead. Bud was able to put the backups in with more than six minutes to go as this one got out of hand early and let the starters get some extra rest in advance of an early tip on Sunday.
Better defensive intensity from tip. That was obvious from the outset, with far crisper rotations, contests inside and on the perimeter and preventing Chicago’s players from getting ot their spots quite so easily. One tactic they took from jump was that Wes Matthews shaded DeMar DeRozaon constantly to his left (the inverted James Harden defense) and didn’t allow him to use his right hand to maneuver through traffic. It was fairly successful, holding him to just eight shots in the first half as the Bulls shot 36.8% overall through two quarters. He ended with just nine attempts. They didn’t relent all evening, throwing off Chicago’s rhythm by getting DeRozan off-kilter, preventing as many driving lanes and holding the Bulls to poor shooting at the rim and only eight free throw attempts through the competitive portion of the game. This was the type of Bucks defense we expected to see all series, holding them to an 84.6 offensive rating.
Bobby Portis got the start in Khris Middleton’s place. Milwaukee jumped out to a 19-9 advantage to start with Bud’s bigball. Donning his rec specs, not only did he give the Bucks more opportunities on the offensive boards with some bat-outs, but he also gave them another knockdown threat from the perimeter as a shooter. Playing larger gives the Bucks a chance for a mismatch for either Bobby or Giannis against a smaller Bulls team on almost every possession, and Portis paid off Bud’s faith plenty. He ended with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
Grayson Allen finally found his way. With just three points total through two games, Milwaukee was waiting for their shooting guard addition this offseason to show some of the scoring punch he had all season. Finally, he erupted in game three looking confident from tip, with a few triples landing early and then driving for finishes and kicking out the perimeter. Without Middleton, Milwaukee needs its role players to step up and it’s a testament to Allen that he was able to pull this off in Chicago, although the crowd seemed much less interested in razzing him this time. He had a playoff career high 22.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- DeMar DeRozan was attacking Grayson Allen anytime he got him in the halfcourt offensively. They did a decent job going quickly down the court getting DeRozan the ball so he could go at him immediately. He made up for it later on in the game with some really solid contests at the rim and a sick block on Patrick Williams in the second.
- Offensively though, Allen found some groove early on with three made triples and stripping Caruso while driving to the rim. It was a welcome sight after silent evenings in Games one and two.
- Giannis was settling for jumpers early on in this contest, even starting off with a baseline fadeaway, so it was a sight for sore eyes to see him just take Vucevic off the dribble to skirt by him for a slam at the rim. And YET, he had 18 points, seven rebounds and nine assists on just 12 shot attempts.
- I try not to be a “blame the refs” guy, but I thought the first two offensive foul calls on Giannis were pretty weak. The third was slightly more legitimate but still...
Looks like DeRozan will be attempting to draw charges on Antetokounmpo tonight.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) April 23, 2022
Just got his second one by sliding in late in transition after Antetokounmpo passed it.
Another offensive foul on Giannis Antetokounmpo - his second this game. That's five now for the series?— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) April 23, 2022
- It was nice to see the Bulls make some boneheaded turnovers for once, passing the ball to no one or just bouncing the ball directly off their legs at points.
- Jrue Holiday still may not have looked like a knockdown shooter in this one, but he looked significantly more composed on the floor, with 16 points, no turnovers, six assists and was as locked in defensively as we’ve seen him all series.
- Pat Connaughton only went 2-7 from three, so he’s still due to go off!
- We got our first glimpse at Luca Vildoza in this one! He even gave us a between the legs in-rhythm pass to Serge Ibaka AND a behind the back pass to Thanasis that ended in this beautiful slam.