In a series that doesn’t give us a lot of moments of great offensive basketball, Jimmy Butler stood out as he led the Chicago Bulls to a 91-82 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, giving them a 2-0 lead in the playoff series.
Butler was the only player on the Bulls who didn’t suffer from the Bucks’ strong defense early on, looking fairly consistent and varied in his shot making all game long, making some tough shots to balance out all the bad and wide open misses the Bulls had in the first half, especially Derrick Rose who went scoreless through the first half.
Butler finished with 31 points and 9 rebounds, including scoring 14 in the fourth quarter. The Bucks still held a 74-71 lead early in the fourth quarter, but a 3-pointer for Butler sparked a 13-0 run to take over the game, and he had the best moment of that streak with a thundering dunk of Zaza Pachulia. Shooting 10-of-19 from the field, Butler provided most of the offensive highlights in this game.
The Bucks are frustrated. Their defense might be slowing down Pau Gasol (11 points on 4-of-12 from the field) and limited the Bulls to just 38.3% from the field, but they couldn’t contain Butler, who is averaging 28 points per game in this series, or Rose in the second half with 15 points. Their offense is another issue, shooting just 35.6% from the field and looking clueless when it comes to ball movement and doing something other than fast breaks or iso plays.
Most of the frustration is stemming from the Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo camp. Carter-Williams might be a point guard, but he doesn’t have a lot of control over the game. Antetokounmpo might be a gifted, unique athlete, but his decision making is atrocious, walking and running into traps and crowded defense, thinking too many times that he can get the job done on his own.
Khris Middleton has been the least disappointing player offensively for the Bucks with 22 points (20 per game in the series). But aside from him there’s nothing coming from the offense, almost no sign of life, especially on half court sets. Jason Kidd knows this is more than just playoff jitters or inexperience. This is simply his team looking raw, uncoached and unintelligent.
Maybe things will change in Milwaukee, as the series heads there. The Bulls are 23-1 all-time when they take a 2-0 lead in a series, which doesn’t sound very promising for the Bucks. Unless they can start generating offense that includes more than contested jumpers or attacking the rim in isolated instances, this series isn’t going to last very long.
The Bulls might not be delighted with their offense, but they’re just as good defensively and seem to have at least one player the Bucks can’t contain completely. If it means bad numbers for everyone else, so be it. If the Bucks start focusing on Butler, the Bulls feel confident it will open up an opportunity to score for other players, who are quite ready and willing to get the job done.