What to expect in the playoffs

What to expect in the playoffs

By earning the third seed, Chicago is going up against the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow evening. Most expect the Bulls to roll over the 41-41 Bucks, which is ignoring the fact that Milwaukee wrapped up the year with the fourth best defensive ranking. They are long, agile, and quick. To expect them to just roll over, is premature.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the longest players you'll find on the perimeter in the league, is also one of the most versatile players you'll find out there. Antetokounmpo played 31% of his minutes at shooting guard, 21% at small forward, 41% at power forward and 6% at center according to Basketball-Reference, with the final percent likely divided up amongst the three. In short, expect Antetokounmpo to be put on everyone from Jimmy Butler to Pau Gasol. This could cause problems for the Bulls if Jason Kidd extends Antetokounmpo's minutes and allows him to switch and free-roam in the same way Gregg Popovich use Kawhi Leonard. Antetokounmpo is long enough to challenge Gasol backing him down, quick enough to keep up with Butler on the perimeter, and he could completely nullify Nikola Mirotic over a long series, if Mirotic is once more placed at the three spot where he's forced to move around away from the basket.

Therefore, the Bulls will have to be ready to lay off the isolation plays. Granted, this has for the most part been a play used down the stretch for either Butler or Derrick Rose, but it's worth noting that Antetokounmpo can severely limit the effectivity of such a play-call.

Milwaukee's other wing, Khris Middleton, is about as solid as they come. His defensive rotations for a perimeter player are neat and timed extraordinarily well, and unlike most wings, he doesn't shy away from bumping people off their path if he sees the opportunity. Similarly to Antetokounmpo, Middleton is versatile. 15% of his minutes come at the two-spot, 14% at small forward, 68% at power forward, and 2% at center. This allows for both of them to switch, a lot, and give the Bulls different looks defensively which has always been an underrated strategy in making life difficult for offensive players.

Overall, Chicago has to be disciplined in their offensive approach, and not get caught up in lazy passes or underestimating Milwaukee's versatility. Even Michael Carter-Williams is long enough to cause some problems when he's not busy air-balling jumpers and turning the ball over.

(Shots fired? Well, not quite. A little though.)

There is however another way to beat the Bucks, and that entails going back to the basics. Well, Thibodeau basics. The Bucks ranked 26th offensively this season, so the strategy that favor the odds here, would be for some old-school bully basketball that has Milwaukee scoring in the mid-70's. Chicago are still amongst the best in the business in disallowing three's, and allows the second-most two-point shot attempts in the league, to which the Bucks rank 16th in effectivity.

Ah, the playoffs. Let the chess game begin!

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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  • Gasol has destroyed the Bucks. They haven't had an answer for him.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Well, he destroyed them in one game 46 & 18, he was more or less his average self in the other three games, 17 & 12. So, I guess we'll see which guy shows up in the playoffs and/or how Kidd defends him on one end and attacks him on the other.

  • Ah, the playoffs. Let the chess game begin!

    Thibs maybe a master, but the problem with the way Thibs plays chess is that he plays the same game every time, regardless of opponent.

  • In reply to pinkizdead:

    Then it's a good thing Thibodeau's match-up is Jason Kidd.

  • In reply to Morten Stig Jensen:

    Sounds like you're not a fan of Kidd as a coach, he has gotten some buzz for coach of the year, deservedly so since the Bucks lost 67 games last year and lost Parker for the season early on this year.

    Personally, I don't know about him, but we'll see if he's smart enough to run pick and roll at you know who every single time down the floor until Thibs does something about it.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    That's the thing, I don't think he is. Brilliant player, but I remain skeptical of his coaching. Antetokounmpo took a significant step forward in his evolution, as did Khris Middleton. Ilyasova bounced back after a poor year, and Brandon Knight developed into a near All-Star before being traded. I think their success was more so a result of the roster's internal development, than it was Kidd.

  • Perhaps I misread the column but something doesn't seem to add up. The Freak spends 41% of his minutes at PF; Middleton spends 68% of his minutes at PF; but I thought Ilyasova is the starting PF, Moreover, don't all three players start? Perhaps if I followed the Bucks more closely this season this would make more sense.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    They play those specific amounts of their minutes at the four. Not the team's total minutes. Ilyasova averaged just over 22 minutes a night in 58 games. Middleton is at 30.1 and Antetokounmpo at 31.4. So those three for the most part carried that position.

  • In reply to Morten Stig Jensen:

    Mort, thanks, I understand but consider this:

    There are 3936 minutes in an NBA season, not including overtimes (82x48).

    1. The Freak played 1041.81 minutes at PF (2541x.41)

    2. Middleton played 1617.04 minutes at PF (2378x.68)

    3. Ilyasova is listed as a PF. He played 1319 minutes.

    4. John Henson is listed as a PF/C. He played 1228 minutes.

    5. Johnny O'Bryant is listed as a PF. He played 368 minutes.

    6. Kenyon Martin is listed as a PF. He played 104 minutes.

    That adds up to 5063.85 minutes assuming Henson split his time between PF and C.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Henson played 97% of his minutes at center, and Ilyasova, surprisingly, received 42% of his minutes at small forward, and even got 4% at center. O'Bryant was at 10% at center and 33% at small forward. Martin got 34% of his minutes at the five, as well.

    So we're at least that much closer to adding it up properly.

  • Looking at Milwaukee's numbers you notice: A) They shoot a much better percentage as a team then the Bulls. .459 for the Bucks compared to the Bulls dreck .442. Also the Bucks defensive numbers aren't bad either rated 4th overall. And neither team plays at a frenetic pace. Still, the Bucks offense is rated near the bottom due in part to no three point game to speak of as in 25th in attempts. Plus they have no major scorers and nobody gets to the line. Not good.

    Aside from the numbers, I just haven't watched the Bucks play much, and why would I? IMO the only way Milwaukee makes this a series is if Jason Kidd and/or one of his assistants somehow throw a wrench in the Bulls offense that Thibs and his staff do not adjust too. Other then that this should be Bulls 4-2 or better IMO.

    Caveat: If Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah get 30ish minutes or plus and struggle which is entirely possible that could potentially spell trouble. Likewise Dunleavy at 28 minutes or more. However even then the Bulls should win this series.

  • Thibs needs to turn into a genius at both player management and in-game adjustments to beat the Cavs and Hawks. And the team will need some breaks with injuries as well.

    If the Bulls' shooters go lights out for 4 games versus the Cavs, they should win. They have the guys who can do it.

  • Interesting article over at CSN.com by Mark Strotman comparing the 8 EC playoff teams based on 4 metrics(8 if you count offense and defense for each metric).

    Effective field goal percentage(offense).
    Not surprisingly the Bulls are tied with the Bucks for last at 48.9%, while the Hawks(52.7%) and Cavs(52.0%) are first and second.

    Effective field goal percentage(defense).
    Somewhat surprisingly, the Bulls are first at 47.3%, while the Hawks(49.2%) are 4th and the Cavs(50.2%) are 6th.

    The Hawks are first in differential at plus 3.5%, with the Cavs 2nd at plus 1.8%, and the Bulls third at plus 1.6%

    Turnover rate(Offensive)
    Toronto leads here at 13.3%, with the Bulls, Hawks and Cavs all in the 14% range, the Bucks are last at 17%. This is a bit of a surprise as the Bulls have seemed like a high turnover team this season.

    Turnover rate(defensive)
    Milwaukee is first at 17.6% and the Bulls are last at 12.6%. For some reason the Bulls have not been good at forcing turnovers in any year during the Thibs era.

    Offensive rebound rate
    The Bulls are first at 27% just barely ahead of Cleveland, with Atlanta last at 21.4%

    Defensive rebound rate
    Only the Wiz were an above average team on the defensive boards among the playoff teams at 77.3%. The Bulls ranked 19th in the entire league at 74.4% just behind the Cavs at 74.7%.

    Free throw rate(offensive)
    Led by Jimmy Butler and Mirotic the Bulls are first at 30.4%, with the Raps(29.5%) and Cavs(28.7%) not too far behind.

    Free throw rate(defensive)
    the Cavs, Hawks and Bulls are 1,2,3 at just about 24% which means the Bulls are first in differential at just over 6%.

    Here's the link if you want to read the whole thing.http://www.csnchicago.com/bulls/four-factors-how-do-bulls-stack-against-east

    Some interesting numbers to chew on even if they shouldn't matter against the Bucks.

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    What to expect in the playoffs: Truth edition

    - Noah will be worthless in this series against Milwaukee bigs

    -Thibs will not play Niko, Snell, or Moore for more than 10mpg

    - Klank will get 25-30mpg

    - Gasol will continue to whine and cry while failing to get back on D and constantly get rebounds stolen from him

    - Rose will get hurt as per the last 3 years

    -Aaron Brooks will continue to give up more points on D than he scores

    -Bulls lose in 5

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I wouldn't say that is the truth. I would say that is being a Bulls fan after MJs second "retirement."

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    In reply to hgarbell:

    Good point.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Rumors are flying Kirk Hinrich may have been abducted by aliens and the Ransom will not be paid until after the playoffs are over.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Thank you. I've been feeling the exact same way. This whole season has been full of inconsistency, lack of effort, injuries, lackadaisical, turnovers, etc. I wouldn't count the Bucks out just yet. They very easily pull an upset on these so-called championship contender Bulls. If the bulls do win this series I see it going to 7 games with multiple overtimes. That's just being realistic.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    I'm sorry that's not being realistic, that's being brainswashed by the NBA's regular season, the most meaningles regular season in all of pro sports. That's like being a guy who thought the 60 plus win Bulls squads actually had a chance to beat Miami. Do you honestly think any team that is "lacksidasical" and "lacking effort" in the regular season will continue to be that way come playoff time? The Bulls were just counting hours until the playoffs, now they are here. There will be no lack of effort or lacksidasical play in the post season where there is actually something on the line. Tonight was pretty damn good proof of that.

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    In reply to Chicagosportsguru:

    I am very glad you are here to enlighten us naive basketball fans with your vast superior knowledge. Where have you been all season ? If you would have showed your big mouth earlier, a lot of us would have bought out NBA finals tickets already.

    I never knew almost 20 turnovers ( mostly unforced ) would constitute for max effort and non lacksidasical play. Beating a team that the Bulls historically dominate, missing their best player, won 15 games the year before ( not huge deal but shows how little playoff experience they have ) by what 11 points means they have taken it to another level, switch gears, and just about ready to coast to the NBA finals.

    Let's see what kind of effort/gear a Cleveland team( a young team w very little playoff experience but crowned by many to be in the finals) w the best player on the planet plays vs a team ( w less experience then the bucks If that's possible w a coach seeing the playoffs for the first time ) brings tomorrow as its now the playoffs.

    I would suspect the guru would expect nothing short of 20 point beating

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I think you might have been 0 for everything you said.. nicely done.

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    In reply to Chicagosportsguru:

    If that's what it takes to get us a championships I don't mind being wrong XD

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    I got Kirk in my cellar locked up......don't worry he's got TV, ladies, and all the booze he could want. Just no internet or phone

    He keeps pleading w me that the team needs him to beat the bucks and advance.

    I told him that this is what's best for the team

    It's so funny cause he really believes I am hurting the team by holding him hostage

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    Bulls blew their chance to make a statement in the 1st quarter. Bucks going to fight all 48 mins, as we are now in store for a dog fight.

    Also, wtf is Niko coming in w like a minute left in the 1st Q

    I will no longer be shocked if the Bulls lose this series ( still rather be playing the bucks then the Wizards who looked great this afternoon).

    Oddsmakers got this wrong favoring the Bulls by 7-8 points tonight.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Oh really? Because by all measures the Bulls dominated the Bucks tonight. Had they not had so many turnovers, they would have won by 30. These Bulls showed what I've had a strong hunch about all season; they've been holding back. Going all out every regular season game gets you jack shit in this league. Noah, Taj, and company are well aware of this. They bruised their way to the best record in the league in 2011 and 2012... only to discover come playoff time that the big boys had an extra gear, an extra gear that they had been stuck on all season long. The Bulls are going to shock people this post season, but it really shouldn't be shocking at all. Any game where the Bulls went up against a true contender this past regular season, they turned up the heat and you saw a glimpse of what was coming in the playoffs. The Bulls got wins against every single Western Conference playoff team.. yet you guys would act like the sky was falling when they'd drop games against crappy Eastern Conference teams. I'm not sure why it was so hard for everyone to realize that they just weren't that interested in giving their sweat, blood, and tears to winning meaningless games in January. Derrick Rose went hard, and full speed at the rim tonight more times than the entirety of the regular season combined. Jimmy Butler played at an intensity that we thought he no longer wss able to bring due to his new scoring abilities and scoring responsibilites. Taj and the ignorantly assumed crippled Noah were flying around out there. This is the NBA, playoff basketball is what matters, the regular season is a big mirage that is always lying to you. Is anyone here even cognizant of the fact that the Bull have been near the top of the league in defensive efficiency since the all star break? Because it sure doesn't seem like it. It's really driven me insane reading the comments on this blog all season. It's been just so damn obvious that the Bulls were, to Thibs heart's detriment, going at about 80% in 90% of the games they played this year. I'm sure it will take a while for it to sink in, but this Bulls team is infinitely better than the teams that won 60 plus games in 2011 an 2012. They learned their lesson, even Noah finally took control of himself and played the long game. Meanwhile fans and pundits picked them apart, as if they forgot to play defense? Give me a break. You honestly thought they had that much of a drop off due to just switching Boozer for Pau? It's laughable. The Team with the best regular season defensive stats is almost NEVER the best defensive team come playoff time, and why do you think that is? Because every veteran in the league knows, you have to save an extra gear, and the often injured bulls veterans have finally learned that lesson. This Bulls team is a top 5 defense, and a top 5 offense; and the playoffs will bear as much out, so sit and enjoy. Being wrong will have never felt so good.

  • No he didn't, or did he.

    Did Jalen Rose just use RPM as his measure for the true value of a player's on the court value(his words, not mine)in his intro to the Bucks Kris Middleton being a/the key guy for the Bucks. That's what he said, but what the fuck does he know, he's just a former NBA player(all star) who now gets paid to watch NBA games and spout his opinions about them. Everyone on Pau Gasol's payroll knows that it is the most useless of all the new fangled stats and no where near as good as anything that John Hollinger could come up with, even if he chooses to ignore fully one half of the game, you know the half where championships are won, the defensive half.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yes, Real Plus/Minus is surely the best measure of true value. That's why, according to rpm, Kirk Hinrich is a superior player to Tony Parker; Mike Dunleavy is better than Mike Conley; and big man Darell Arthur is superior to big men Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, and Tristan Thompson.

    You will spare no effort to slam Gasol. In order to support your rabid hate for Gasol you continually seek to discredit Hollinger.
    Hollinger's methodologies are the most used by NBA teams. Nothing personal, but you are a nobody. Not only that but you are not much of a Bulls fan in my book. Now go back and finish pulling the wings off your pet flies.

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