MILWAUKEE – NBA defending champion Milwaukee Bucks continues to produce in the postseason even without key artists.
The Chicago Bulls just don’t have that kind of depth or knowledge of the playoffs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and nine rebounds and the Bucks defeated the Bulls 116-100 on Wednesday night to end their first-round series in five games.
The Bucks have won the last three games by an average of 23.3 points despite playing without Khris Middleton, the All-Star who sprained his medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the fourth quarter of Game 2.
The Bucks, third-seeded, advanced to second-placed Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals with Game 1 on Sunday in Boston. The Celtics swept Brooklyn.
“After Game 2, we talked about how we know what the deal was,” Antetokounmpo said. “The team knew what the deal was. We knew what we had to do. We had to be desperate. We had to go out and compete at a high level, pay attention to detail as much as possible, help each other defensively. We have to do it as a team.”
The Bucks have been through this before. They won their first title since 1971 last season despite losing to Antetokounmpo in the last two Eastern Conference finals due to a hyperextended knee.
“We’ve been talking a lot about the depth of the squad, the quality of the squad this season,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Other guys had opportunities and played well. Our defense has been strengthened, and we have been very supportive in these three games. We have depth. We have a good group.”
Antetokounpmo seemed to have a little tentative treatment during the first half, but clearly did not limit its effectiveness. Antetokounmpo later said he felt “great” and Budenholzer added that “we think he’s fine.”
Although the Bucks prospered without Middleton, Chicago did not handle the loss of key players as well.
The Bulls played without the initial backhand they used during the first four games because the two-time All-Star Zach LaVine was on health and safety protocols and Alex Caruso was on concussion protocol. Without them on the ground, the Bulls fell to 29 points in the first half.
“This was a big part of our youngsters’ first rodeo, just realizing what it’s like to compete in a playoff series, ”said DeMar DeRozan of Chicago. “There’s a lot you can learn from that experience, especially against defending champions.”
Milwaukee focused on containing DeRozan, who had scored 41 points in the Bulls’ Game 2 victory. DeRozan held on to 11 points on Wednesday as he threw 5 of 10, though he also had seven assists.
“That was the plan of the game: to show him a lot of bodies and force everyone else to beat us,” said Bucks guard Wesley Matthews.
Antetokounmpo was 1 of 15 from the ground and 11 of 14 from the free kick line. Pat Connaughton was 6 of 9 on 3-point attempts and scored 20 points. Bobby Portis added 14 points and 17 rebounds, the record of his career.
Patrick Williams scored 23 points, Nikola Vucevic 19 and Coby White 17 for the Bulls. Vucevic also had 16 rebounds and six assists.
DeRozan had no goals in the first 26 minutes of play and tried only one shot in the first quarter while trying to involve his teammates.
The problem was that the other Chicago players weren’t hitting open shots, allowing the Bucks to take control early.
“It was pretty obvious they were going to charge at DeMar,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought he played a great game. I thought he generated good shots. He didn’t have a high total assist because we didn’t really throw the ball especially well, but he would have received a huge amount of assists if we had thrown the ball better.”
Milwaukee took a 3 1/2 minute lead and built a double-digit lead by scoring 12 straight points in the first quarter. At the end of the first period, the Bucks started a 23-2 run that helped them extend the lead to 49-20 with 7:25 left for the second period.
Chicago outscored the Bucks 22-11 the rest of the second quarter and lowered the lead to 11 on Ayo Dosunmu’s 3-point play with 9:32 left for the third quarter, but that’s the closest the Bulls would get.
Bulls: The Bulls attempted 52 shots from 3-point range and only 40 from inside the arc. Chicago made just 28.8% of their 3-point shots. … The Bulls have not advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since 2015, when they beat the Bucks before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Semifinals. … With LaVine and Caruso unavailable, Javonte Green and Dosunmu began their first playoffs of their careers.
Bucks: Reserve guard George Hill has yet to play this postseason due to abdominal tension. Hill had been listed as questionable Wednesday’s injury report before being ruled out, a sign that he is getting closer to returning. Budenholzer said before the match that Hill “is making progress”, but added that “he needs more time”. … The Bucks have won 20 of their last 22 games with the Bulls. … Jrue Holiday had 10 points and nine assists but also made six turnovers.
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The Bucks defeated the Bulls 116-100 in Game 5, advancing to face the Celtics
Source link The Bucks defeated the Bulls 116-100 in Game 5, advancing to face the Celtics