Ahead three games to one, the Milwaukee Bucks are back at the friendly confines of Fiserv Forum with a chance to wrap up their first-round series against the Chicago Bulls in five games. While it’s definitely no fait-accompli that the Bulls will wilt tonight, even after back-to-back blowouts at the United Center in Games 3 and 4, it sure doesn’t look good for the Bulls given this morning’s news about their starting backcourt:
Zach LaVine (health & safety protocols) and Alex Caruso (concussion protocols) are both listed as OUT for Game 5 tonight in Milwaukee. pic.twitter.com/RRgAjYCu8R— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 27, 2022
Where We’re At
If you’re a Bucks fan who wrung their hands a bit after an uninspiring Game 1 victory, a dispiriting Game 2 loss at home plus Khris Middleton’s MCL sprain, the next two games came as a bit of a salve. There’s no better way to put it: Milwaukee utterly dominated Chicago, befitting of the walkover many predicted this series to be. Newly-minted Twyman Stokes Teammate of the Year Jrue Holiday found his offensive game again with two great shooting nights, particularly from outside in Game 4. Giannis was efficiently unstoppable as usual, Bobby
Bifocals Portis had two productive outings, and Grayson Allen went ballistic off the bench by hitting 11 of his 14 three-point attempts over the two games. Middleton remains out but fears of George Hill’s abdominal strain being more serious appear misplaced (quick aside: if we’ve learned anything from the late-breaking returns of Donte DiVincenzo and Brook Lopez earlier this year, it’s that a lack of updates on an injured Buck’s condition from the team is their standard practice, and should not be taken too seriously or ominously) as he’s been upgraded to questionable.
As for our neighbors to the south, there appears to be some degree of resignation to fate. It’s gotten so bad that the fans stopped booing Chicago villain Allen after the Bucks appropriated the jeers once he began lighting the Bulls on fire (too soon?) from deep. Even if the Bulls were fully healthy—including long-term absence Lonzo Ball—the Bucks are simply more talented top-to-bottom and better coached. Maybe the Bulls will put up a more valiant effort tonight after the consecutive beatdowns, but the Bucks have neutered DeRozan’s foul-drawing of late (only 13 free throws combined in Games 3 and 4) and are lacking their second-leading scorer in LaVine. Nikola Vucevic is now a relative non-factor after a big Game 2 with Brook Lopez turning up the pressure on him as he did in the first round of the 2020 postseason. Without Caruso to function as their main perimeter stopper, young guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu are now tasked with Holiday and Allen.
At time of publishing, Vegas has the Bucks favored at -12.
Player To Watch
We became accustomed to big nights from Pat Connaughton in the 2021 Finals run and with a likely matchup against his hometown Celtics ahead (where he performed very well in the 2019 series), the time feels right for him to fully break out. He’s still only shooting 22.7% from behind the arc in the series and hit just 3/10 in Chicago, but he found otherwise to score with nice cutting to the rim, plus drawing a foul on a three-point attempt. He’s too good of a shooter for this to continue and is due for one of his usual 5/7-or-better nights.
Game 5: Against Chicago, Milwaukee will...
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