Michael Walton II writes about the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for We Are Regal Radio.
Michael is a student, freelance writer and high school basketball scout based in Chicago. He’s previously been published in TrueStar Magazine, the Redeye Chicago and thelyricallab.com.
So after all the hype and speculation about Derrick Rose — Chicago’s prodigal son — playing in his first playoff game since 2012, we now stand at a slim Chicago Bulls advantage, 3 games to 2, in its first-round series against Milwaukee. Heading into Thursday’s Game 6 in Wisconsin it is now as competitive a series as there is in the NBA playoffs.
Many critics (myself included) believed this series was going to be a very physical slugfest of sorts. And through five games that prediction has been spot on.
Bulls fans are surely excited about the future right now. Sure, here and now is the most important time for the franchise. But seeing Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose carry the team on a nightly basis gives hope that this could be close to a decade long run for the Bulls newfound backcourt.
But for all of the promise of the future, the present is quite scary right now. Some writers (*cough cough*…me) predicted this series to be won by Chicago in six games. This was due to my belief that it would take a while for Rose to get into a rhythm (partly right) and that the Bucks great team defense would be enough for them to steal two games (DING DING DING).
The Bucks are shooting 39.7 percent and the Bulls 42% through these first five games, so proper play execution in the end of games has been the key to this tough series.
THAT LOOK ON YOUR FACE WHEN YOU HIT THE GAME WINNER IN 2K
“It’s a bird… it’s a plane… no! It’s just a bunch of long-limbed defenders!”
When Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond made the midseason deal that sent Bucks leading scorer Brandon Knight packing and brought in Michael Carter-Williams from the 76ers, many were left scratching their heads. But from the second that trade was conceived I knew the vision Milwaukee had, and this is why it scared me.
The Bucks are a team with no one in their starting lineup being shorter than six-foot six-inches. And their collective wingspans’ are even more impressive than that.
In the Bucks victory in game 4, they finished with a +13 advantage in turnovers. The most interesting note on this was veteran center Zaza “Thugnificent” Pachulia finishing with a game-high six steals. This was a result of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Pau Gasol meeting aggressive pressure and double teams right at the point of attack.
Credit should go to Bucks coach Jason Kidd and his band of long-armed thieves like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and MCW. However, the Bulls are the superior team and actually did use Milwaukee’s aggression to their advantage in game five; in game five the Bulls went to the free throw line 29 times. Nevertheless, the Bulls lost this game for a much different reason, one that just made me audibly gulp.
“Hey! You used to be Rookie of the Year right?”
Even in his Philadelphia days, Michael Carter-Williams always seemed to have a certain level of confidence when he plays against Derrick Rose. And Monday’s game was no different. MCW roasted D-Rose to the tune of 22 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and three blocks. Most important of those stats were the three blocks.
Those three blocks were a small representation of what went wrong for the Bulls in this game. Down the stretch the Bulls expected their hard-nosed backcourt to carry them into a promising second-round matchup with Cleveland.
But Milwaukee had different ideas. They forced Chicago’s backcourt into 25% shooting in the fourth quarter. Perhaps Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau should’ve rode Gasol more in the 4th quarter, but he hasn’t had the best series shooting wise at 45%.
In the end, the Bulls need to stop relying on the fact that they are the more talented team. This Chicago franchise has had an issue with playing down to the level of their competition for years.
The Bulls have to realize that the only way to defeat scrappy teams like the Bucks is to outwork them, but I think Thibodeau is the right coach to get that message across. Then again, ain’t no tellin’.
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