All right, some key numbers from last night:
- The Bucks scored 66 total points. Chicago had 65 by halftime.
- Doug McDermott had as many points as Giannis Antetokounmpo (5) and one less ejection.
- Zaza Pachulia lead the Bucks in scoring... With eight.
- The Bulls starters outscored the Bucks starters 81-29.
Okay, you get the gist of it. The Bulls flatlined Milwaukee's season, and looked about as crisp as they've looked all year. Not that it isn't easy to roll over someone who quit three minutes into the game. (Seriously, after the Bulls knocked down eight points in the first minute, the fight in Milwaukee's eyes were gone. Just gone.) But that's somehow the point. The Bulls came out and punched hard, never to look back. They didn't grow comfortable as they normally do. They didn't relax or take plays off. They pushed harder, and further, admittedly humiliating the Bucks throughout, although this wasn't the intent.
No, the intent was something different. The intention was finally learning once and for all how good they can be when their collective foot doesn't leave the pedal. Yes, the Bucks quit. But you could have thrown the Cavs or Warriors in there last night, and they still would have gone down. To borrow a quote from John C. Reilly's character, Gus Sinski, in For Love Of The Game: "The boys are all here for ya, we'll back you up, we'll be there, cause, Billy, we don't stink right now. We're the best team in baseball, right now, right this minute, because of you. You're the reason. We're not gonna screw that up, we're gonna be awesome for you right now. Just throw."
Last night, Chicago was the best team in basketball. The shared determination, the competitive edge, the unwillingness to fall into familiar patterns, all came together at just the right time. The challenge from here on out will be keeping that edge going into the second round against Cleveland. The Bulls, knowing Kevin Love won't show up, should forget he won't show up. They must not care. No Love, no J.R. Smith - it doesn't matter. Hell, LeBron James could go out, and the change in approach for Chicago shouldn't even remotely present itself.
If these Bulls are serious, they need to go medieval on their opponents from here on out. Go up by 10? Build it to 20. Sense another poor defensive performance from Kyrie Irving? Attack him from every angle on the floor until he cracks. The theme for the Bulls right now has to change, and change to something very particular.
Whatever it takes.
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