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Bucks Win A Slugfest Over The Bulls In Game 1

The Chicago Bulls were significant underdogs in their first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Bucks Win A Slugfest Over The Bulls In Game 1

The hurt of a 93-86 loss on the road in Game 1 remains. Inside the last minute, the Bulls trailed by three points, but had a Nikola Vuevi tip-in rim out and a game-tying 3-point attempt by Zach LaVine skew wrong, while Brook Lopez floaters kept the reigning champs afloat.

Milwaukee, according to LaVine, “made a couple more winning plays than we did at the end.”

It remains to be seen if the loss will be remembered as a painful squandered opportunity or a premonition of a contested series to come.

Meanwhile, consider the following five observations:

Bulls don’t give up easily.
The Bucks wasted no time in establishing their dominance in this one, going on a 9-0 run to start the game and forcing a Billy Donovan timeout with 93 seconds remaining. After falling down by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Bulls rallied, winning the second quarter 22-17 to trail 51-43 at halftime after losing the first 34-21.

More encouraging: In the third quarter, that streak not only persisted, but accelerated. First, it was LaVine pouring in seven points and making his first three field-goal attempts. Then, when he exited due to foul trouble, Vučević stepped up and scored eight straight points to pull the Bulls from down 64-56 to level up.

Coby White followed with a 3-pointer and a layup to put the Bulls up 69-64.

The Bulls scored 26 of the team’s 28 third-quarter points, outscoring the Bucks 23. Despite finishing on a 10-2 run, Milwaukee’s 74-71 lead entering the fourth quarter was far from dominant. It’s a change from their previous two regular-season meetings, when early Bucks runs turned into blowouts.

Charges that have the potential to change the game
When LaVine picked up his fourth personal foul at the 6:42 mark of the third quarter, the game’s momentum nearly swung.

Shooting that was not up to par
Entering this series, the 3-point line loomed as an X factor. The Bucks allowed the most opponent 3-point attempts per game throughout the regular season, while the Bulls took the fewest – and saw their percentage drop after the All-Star break.

In this game, neither team was able to hit the broad side of a barn from long range. The Bucks went 10-for-38 (26.3 percent) from beyond the arc, while the Bulls went 7-for-38 (18.9%), resulting in a very antiquated 17-for-75 shooting line between the two teams.

This can be interpreted in two ways. For one thing, the Bulls’ “Big Three” of Vuevi (9-for-27), DeRozan (6-for-25), and LaVine (6-for-19) combined for a 21-for-71 shooting percentage, something DeRozan promised would not happen again.

However, many of Milwaukee’s 28 failed 3-point tries were clean looks by quality shooters, whereas the Bulls’ long-range record is less certain. What’s clear is that the Bulls — particularly Vuevi, who shot 2-for-10 from 3-point range — will be faced with these opportunities throughout the series, and they’ll have to make more.

Defense that causes havoc
The Bulls’ defensive tenacity, according to Donovan and DeRozan, was a crucial component in their ability to remain in the game after a sluggish start.

And it is correct. In this game, the Bulls caused 21 Bucks turnovers and scored 15 points off of them.

DeRozan, Caruso, and Williams each had multiple thefts, while the Bucks’ Big Three of Middleton (7), Antetokounmpo (5), and Jrue Holiday (4) were responsible for 16 of those turnovers (4). The Bulls drew three offensive fouls against Antetokounmpo as a team.

Holding the league’s third-ranked regular-season offense to 93 points is a promising start to a series the Bulls will need to win. However, the formula must be maintained.

DeRozan (43), Vuevi (39) and LaVine (37), despite foul difficulties, each cleared 37 minutes in the rotation.

Donovan used Derrick Jones Jr. on many occasions, including once in an uber-small frontcourt partnership with Javonte Green (who was a plus-2 in about two minutes of action) and again in the second half alongside Vuevi.

The most significant repercussion was Ayo Dosunmu’s close exclusion. After Christmas, the rookie guard averaged 32 minutes per game and hadn’t played fewer than 10 minutes in a game since late November, when he played nine in this one.

Donovan made the adjustment as a result of this, as well as the excellent play of Jones Jr. and White (12 points, two 3-pointers).

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