After a 3-1 regular season against Milwaukee the Bulls will open up the post the post season against the Bucks at the United Center. The Bulls won both games at the United Center and split the two games in Milwaukee.
In an season with constant injuries and players missing games. Tom Thibodeau will have almost a full complement of players for game one. Only Kirk Hinrich is sitting out. The question is if the Bulls are healthy. Joakim Noah seems to have a cronic knee problem and Derrick Rose's knees will remain a question until proven otherwise.
When the Bulls starting five of Butler, Rose, Noah, Gasol and Dunleavy play the Bulls are 17-5. They only played a quarter of the season together. If they had been healthy they might have been able to get the two seed over the Cleveland James.
The game marks Rose's first postseason game since 2012 when he tore his ACL against Philadelphia in the first round. From a once MVP player to one of the most injury prone in Chicago Sports history this playoff run is important for Rose to show he is an elite player.
The Bulls three wins over the Bucks this season were won with defense. Milwaukee failed to crack 90 points in each of their losses against the Bulls this years. Defensively their best game against Milwaukee was an 87-71 victory on February 25th. The held the Bucks to 33 percent shooting.
In their January 10th meeting at the United Center, Pau Gasol had his best game as a Bull with 46 points and 18 rebounds. On the season, Gasol averaged 24.3 PPG against Milwaukee. Gasol also led the NBA in double doubles this season with 54.
Milwaukee is long, All three starters along the front line are at least 6'10. Michael Carter-Williams is 6'6 at the point and Khris Middleton 6'7 at the two. Despite their size, the Bucks only finished 24th in rebounding. The Bulls were third.
This should be a deliberate defensive series. The Bucks finished eighth in the NBA in points allowed and the Bulls tenth. The teams were fourth and fifth in opponent field goal percentage.
Tom Thibodeau will have a dilemma in the backcourt. Does he put Jimmy Butler on Carter-Williams or Middleton. The likelihood is that Rose and Butler stay in their positions defensively. This will also be where the Bulls miss Kirk Hinrich being out for at least game one. Rose doesn't have enough bulk to match up with Middleton. Carter-Williams weighs 190, Middleton 225.
In their only meeting last season while MCR was with Philly, Rose was dominated. Carter-Williams had 26 points, 10 assists and three steals, Rose only had 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting and eight turnovers. Carter-Williams size advantage over Rose will be a big issue in this series.
Carter-Williams did not have to play as big of a role in Miwaukee as he did in Philadelphia. His minutes, rebounds and assists all went down. His efficiency stats mostly went up. He shot better from the field and the free throw line and had a better assist to turnover rate in Milwaukee then he did in Philly.
One of the Bulls keys on MCR will be to keep him in front of them. He is only a career 40 percent shooter from the floor and 25 percent from three-point range.
The Bucks other key has been the emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo has to be in the discussion for NBA most improved player. He is averaging 12.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG and shooting 49 percent from the floor.
This will be just the fourth time the Bulls and Bucks have met in the post season. The Bucks swept the Bulls in four straight in 1974 and won again in four in a best of five series in 1985. That series in Michael Jordan's rookie season. Jordan got his revenge five years later. The Bulls won that series three 3-1.
In the end the Bulls depth offensively and off the bench will be too much for Milwaukee. With Gibson, Mirotic and Brooks off the bench, the Bucks will be hard pressed to match this. Bulls in five.
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