NBA Playoffs Preview: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Chicago Bulls

18
Apr

Get on I-90 W/ I-94 W. Follow I-94 W to WI-145 S/W Fond Du Lac Ave in Milwaukee. Take exit 73A from I-43 N. Continue on WI-145 S/W Fond Du Lac Ave. Drive to N 4th St.

That’s it. That’s all it takes to get from Chicago’s United Center to Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Center. I say this to point out that while the Bucks have had an exciting run this season, they simply aren’t going to be afforded the luxury of a home court advantage. Then again, Bucks primary owner Jamie Dinan has encouraged Bulls fans to skip the drive north. He claims it won’t be worth it:

I would say it’s going to be a very long, long, lonely drive home to west Chicago after the games here That’s my advice. Stay home because you’re going to be really lonely and sad on that long ride home.

Shots have been fired. But then again, do you really want to be talking that sort of trash to a team that has Joakim Noah as its most vocal player?

The Bulls and the Bucks haven’t had the storied rivalry that you would expect out of two teams that are barely 90 miles apart, but most of that is due to the fact that the teams haven’t really been competitive at the same time. Well, 2015 is the first year in a long time that there’s actually something for Bucks fans to cheer for. They’ve got an exciting new coach in Jason Kidd and a young, long team who has over-performed despite being without their best offensive weapon (Jabari Parker) for most of the season.

The Bulls are hoping that they’re finally healthy, with Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah all returning to form for the playoffs. Still, much of this team is playing at less than 100%, so Chicago is going to have to rely on their ridiculous depth to find a way to keep up with the athleticism of their neighbors to the north.

Keys to the Series

Bucks

  • Overcoming youth. Inexperience is magnified in the playoffs and pitting a team with an average age of 24.1 against the likes of Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson does not bode well. Kidd is going to have to keep his team calm and keep their heads in the game.
  • Contain the Bulls inside. This season Chicago has been known to drift outside when the inside game isn’t working well. Derrick Rose has been especially criticized for it. If Carter-Williams can keep Rose out of the paint, and the front court can find a way to contain Gasol, the Bulls may revert to chucking, which is never a safe proposition.

Bulls

  • Force Carter-Williams to shoot. Michael Carter-Williams is nowhere near the offensive threat that Brandon Knight is, so anytime he’s doing anything other than scoring at the basket, it will be a good thing for the Bulls. If they can contain Middleton, Dudley and Ilyasova, then Carter-Williams is going to have to do a lot more.
  • Pound the paint. Taj Gibson, Gasol, and Noah working inside against Zaza Pachulia, John Henson and Miles Plumlee is almost laughable. The Bulls should have ample second chance opportunities, and they need to continue to score inside whenever possible.

X-Factor

Nikola Mirotic

The Pump Fake Possessor. The Three Free Throw Tiger. The Make-Em Commit Maestro. The Montenegrin Master. That’s right, talking about the guy whose swish is so smooth that it could tuck me in at night. With both Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah banged up, Mirotic could be called on to play major minutes in this series, and if he plays anything like he did in the second half of the season, that won’t be any problem for the Bulls. With how praised his outside game is, it’s sometimes forgotten that he can also play under the basket. He’s averaged 30% of the Bulls defensive rebounds when on the court, and made 60% of his shots within five feet. Those are ridiculous numbers, but they’re certainly respectable for a guy regarded as a stretch four. If he’s able to continue to be effective on both ends of the court, that’ll be huge for the Bulls.

Prediction

Bulls in 5

Athleticism is always scary, so I don’t doubt that the Bucks can find a way to sneak one win out of this series, but they’re simply overmatched in every way possible. Next year, when Parker is back, this could be a really exciting matchup, but as is, that 90 minute drive home should be one where Bulls fans are popping champagne.

(Other League does not endorse having open alcohol in a moving vehicle.)

About the author: Alex Lowe

A former college athlete in a sport that no one cared about, Alex now spends most of his days being a furiously biased Bulls and Braves fan. When he's not busy with that, he still imagines his 5'7" self making an improbable rise to NBA stardom.