In a very exciting night of playoff basketball, the Chicago Bulls completed the job against the Milwaukee Bucks with a 120-66 win to clinch the series 4-2, while the Los Angeles Clippers present us with a game 7 after beating the San Antonio Spurs on the road 102-96, tying the series at 3-3.
After struggling so much in games 4 and 5, missing out on the chance of finishing the series, the Bulls had no problem with the Bucks’ defense, as excellent ball movement (31 assists in the game) led to plenty of open shots, shooting 51.1% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Without their defense pushing them forward, the Bucks looked lost offensively, as if the opportunity of tying the series was overwhelming for them.
The Bulls led by 18 at the end of the quarter and by 32 at the end of the half. They won all four quarters, as the Bucks never scored more than 19 points in any of them, limited to just 14 in the fourth. Overall they shot 32.9% from the field, 21.1% from beyond the arc and turned the ball over 18 times. Jason Kidd said it’s something to learn from, but overall it’s just a loss, and you move on.
Mike Dunleavy was able to get under the players’ skin on the Bucks’ side with cheap shots that weren’t caught by the referees, first by shoving Giannis Antetokounmpo which led to the Greek forward charging into Dunleavy on the other end, tackling him and getting ejected. Dunleavy did something similar to Michael Carter-Williams who also, unwisely, tried to settle the score. Scottie Pippen seemed ready to jump into the court after Dunleavy was tackled for the first time.
Dunleavy led the Bulls with 20 points, followed by Pau Gasol with 19 and Jimmy Butler with 16 points. Derrick Rose scored 15 in 25 minutes, adding 7 assists. Butler had four steals and gave Khris Middleton and others a miserable time on the defensive end. The leading scorer for the Bucks was Zaza Pachulia with 8 points, which says it all.
But not all games were so one sided. The San Antonio Spurs, with a chance to knockout the Los Angeles Clippers, managed to drag a game they were trailing in for most of the night down to the wire, mostly thanks to the shooting of Marco Belinelli, scoring 23 points on 7-of-11 from beyond the arc. After the Clippers took a 96-90 lead with 1:25 to go (Jamal Crawford jumper) the Italian hit a big shot to narrow the lead down to three.
Chris Paul followed that with a great floater over Tim Duncan, and Belinelli was there to make it a two-point game with another 3-pointer. However, that’s where the scoring stopped for the Spurs. Crawford hit two shots from the line, and a miss by the Spurs on the other end resulted in offensive goaltending by Boris Diaw, and then two more free throws by Blake Griffin to seal the deal.
DeAndre Jordan did miss eight shots from the line (7-of-15, above his average), but the Clippers missed just one more shot besides that. Blake Griffin had an excellent performance, scoring 26 points to go with 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks and plenty of mid range jumpers, open or contested. Chris Paul finished with a 19 points, 15 assists double double, J.J. Redick added 19 himself and Crawford didn’t try too hard this time, scoring 10 points on 4-of-9 from the field.
The Spurs had a worrying performance from Tim Duncan with just 12 points and only 12 from Kawhi Leonard. Tony Parker and Danny Green were both shooting only 33.3% from the field, Manu Ginobili was just 1-of-6 and it was Boris Diaw with 17 points and Belinelli that kept them in the game. A poor performance with the scoreline lying a little bit, as Popovich called out his players for being soft at the end of the game, realizing they might be heading home after the first round.