A dominant playoff-return for Derrick Rose was the highlight of game 1 between the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks. In game 2, with the Bulls leading 1-0, it’ll be how Jason Kidd and the Bucks attempt to fix what went wrong for them the first time around.
Rose scored 23 points in his first postseason game since April 2012, which was a good day for him until he tore his knee ligaments which led 18 months off the courts and a series of following injuries, leading to a much less amped up comeback this season. He once again missed a big chunk of games later in the season due to a meniscus injury, although he came back in time to get some playing time before the postseason began.
Without Rose (since 2012) the Bulls are 7-15 in the playoffs, making it past the first round just once (2013), twice losing home court advantage. With Rose since he was drafted in 2008, the Bulls are 15-15 in the postseason, and he’s averaging 26.7 points and 7.6 assists in 23 games. Jimmy Butler was the one who actually led the Bulls in the 103-91 win, scoring 25 points.
Butler was the team’s leading scorer this season although his consistency, shooting and ability to get to the line fluctuated through the season. It has a lot to do with how healthy the Bulls are. With everyone fit, including Mike Dunleavy and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have the ability to play a very nice inside outside game with more than one or even two playmakers, allowing Rose and Butler more room for attacking the rim, and cancelling the length and excellent regular season defense the Bucks were hoping would be carrying them in the series.
One player the Bulls weren’t happy with his production was Pau Gasol, scoring just 10 points on 5-of-17 from the field. He is shooting just 41.9% from the field in his last seven playoff games. The Bulls have other options at power forward, including Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic, back to a reduced role, but their best low post scorer is Gasol, who went through some sort of rejuvenation this season.
The Bulls’ defense has also been inconsistent this season, but in recent games they’ve been able to recapture the form Tom Thibodeau is famous for. Over the last five games (including the playoffs), they’ve held their opponents to 89.4 points and 39.1% from the field. They’ve won seven of their last eight games against the Bucks, holding them to 85.3 points per contest, and have won the last four at home by 12 points per game.
So what do the Bucks have to sell this time? This is a team with very few players who have postseason experience. They certainly looked less than prepared and slightly overwhelmed in the first game, with Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo combining to shoot just 34.9% from the field. The Bucks aren’t going to get their points from someone else.
Taking advantage of the Bulls’ turnovers seems like the best bet at the moment. Half court offense isn’t a strength for the young and anxious Bucks, so trying to create some transition rhythm to showcase the athleticism of their wing players might be the only advantage they can create in this series right now. Obviously, they need to stop making it so easy for the Bulls to score.