The Chicago Bulls returned post season on Sunday for the first time in five years, but at this point even the most optimistic fans have turned them down.
they in the head Game 1 in Milwaukee Have lost 15 of their last 22 matches, and Giannis Antetokounmpo and defending champion Bucks are healthy and ready to roll.
A four-game sweep seems quite possible, and in an oddsmaker listing the title favorites, the Bulls were only ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Pelicans, Charlotte Hornets and San Antonio Spurs—all of whom are in play-in tournaments.
So the pressure is on coach Billy Donovan and his team. A season that started off so well is expected to end with a thumping rumble, and then it’s on to Zach LaVine’s contract, the draft, and other important matters.
But forward Patrick Williams doesn’t see it that way.
“We can play with any team,” Williams said on Sunday after the bench crowd Ended the regular season with a win in Minnesota.
Not so what his 1-14 record against the top four Eastern Conference seeds – the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. But please elaborate, Patrick.
“I don’t think we see ourselves as underdogs,” Williams continued. “But I think this team can definitely use that as fuel. We did at the beginning of the season when people were saying this team is not going to be that good. I think it’s something that needs to be done.” We can certainly use that as fuel.
“I don’t think we will need to. I think we are all ready for this opportunity. And we are all ready for this series.”
The Bulls looked unprepared to play in their two most recent games against the Bucks – losing by a combined 49 points – and they continued their pattern against the NBA’s elite teams, going 0–4 against the defending champions in the season series. Went ahead.
The cavalry was supposed to arrive in March to save the season, which was why Arturas Karnisova, executive vice president of basketball operations, pounced on the trade deadline and instead signed Tristan Thompson, a grown man with postseason experience. In between could enchant Nikola Vusevic. ,
But the return of Williams and Alex Caruso did not help much, Thompson was not as effective as advertised and Lonzo Ball remained on the injured list with his knee injury. out for the season Last week. DeMar DeRozan, who carried this team on his back throughout the season, couldn’t do it alone, and without a true point guard, the Bulls were just another mid-of-the-pack team down the stretch.
Since January 14, when the ball went down in a 138-96 loss to the Golden State Warriors, The Bulls went 19-24 to lose their mojo. He was 18th in average scoring (111.7 points per game) and 23rd in 3-point shooting (34.9%) after a ball injury.
All eyes will now be on DeRozan and LaVine as they try to create a small miracle. DeRozan is playoff-tested, While Lavin will make his debut after the season.
The Bucks rested their Sunday in the regular season finale, instead going all out to try to capture the former No. 2 seed. They lost badly to the Cavaliers and ended up injured with the No. 3 seed – avoiding a potential first-round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, who meet the Cavs in a play-in game on Tuesday.
It wasn’t exactly tanking, but would anyone in their right mind take the risk of facing the free-falling Bulls instead of playing a series against Kevin Durant and the Nets?
Bucks coach Mike Buddenholzer is no dummy, and he knows he has the Bulls’ number. The last time the Bulls beat the Bucks with both Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton in the lineup was December 26, 2017. From that night onwards only one Bulls player, Bobby Portis, will be on the floor in this series – and he now plays Rs.
LaVine knows what’s at stake. they called the bulls to blow damage Hornet “Shameful” on Friday and said fans were right to boo the team. But they believe they can hang with the Bucks if everyone does their job.
“They have a really good team and a whole team,” Lavin said after Sunday’s game. “I think we do too. We just have to attack them and find ways to defeat them.”
Antetokounmpo is unlikely to win another MVP award this year, although his numbers show he is in the same area code as two front-runners, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Joel Embiid of the 76ers. The “Greek Freak” averaged 26.8 points and 13.5 rebounds in 32 minutes in the Bucks’ four meetings with the Bulls. Vusevic averaged 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds against the Bucks, but with Williams returning, he shouldn’t be focused on defending Antetokounmpo.
The lack of size has been a deterrent for the Bulls throughout the season, but they were met with a smaller, faster lineup when Ball was in good health. The Bulls finished 28th in rebounding (42.3 per game), while the Bucks were second (46.7). The return of Brooke Lopez creates an even bigger disparity in size, so Donovan may have to tie Vusevic and Thompson together, which doesn’t bode well for the team when the offense flows instead of being bogged down by the two big guys. Ho.
Donovan said the Bucks are “arguably the best team in the league.” Lopez’s return gives him another weapon.
“Knowing the employees is really important,” he said. “Lopez was out with his back (injury), and now he’s back and played well. He has had the opportunity to play small with Portis in fifth and big with Giannis and López.
“They (Serge) can also use Ibaka. He didn’t play the last match against us, so where does he fit in there? Those are all things you study and be as detailed as you can.”
Left unsaid is the presence of Bucks guard Grayson Allen, whose hard foul on Caruso On January 21, Fischer sent the Bulls’ best defensive player to the injured list at the Forum with a fractured right wrist and made the former Duke star Public Enemy No. 1 at United Center.
Allen’s open foul didn’t start the Bulls’ downfall, but with Ball’s injury, it tested his depth and forced him to play at a higher level every night to give him a chance. Obviously this didn’t happen often, and the Bulls dropped from first place to the No. 6 seed.
That bitterly cold night in Milwaukee saw the Bulls lose 94-90, a strong overall effort that fell short. At United Center on March 4, they were reduced to a 118–112 defeat 37–24 in the fourth quarter, and the Bucks won the final two games by 28 and 21 points.
“They’ve been a championship caliber team for a couple of years,” LaVine said. “They are experienced. We have to come in and try to shake it up a bit. We have to try to bring the fight to them because if we are back on our heels, it will not be good.”