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Bulls take game two behind Jimmy Butler's 31 points, frontcourt rebounding dominance

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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks made it known they were not comfortable with some of the high-scoring stretches of game one, and made sure when opening up the second game of the series to keep it as low-scoring and as fugly as possible. Fortunately, while it took a whole half, the Bulls eventually found their way, taking a commanding 2-0 series lead after a 92-81 win.

That start though...man. The Bulls opened the game shooting 4 for 20 with 6 turnovers, finishing with a measly 11 points in the opening quarter. The Bulls were continuously flummoxed when trying to feed Gasol in the post and though only 'credited' for a couple turnovers he was somewhat responsible for at least double that. The Bucks continued their strategy of quickly double-teaming Gasol when he did get the ball, and neither he nor his teammates could not make the Bucks pay for their aggression on defense.

Luckily (remember, this is a tune-up series!), the Bulls were controlling the glass in this brick-fest and Milwaukee blew several a lot of inside attempts. When Nikola Mirotic came in things opened up a bit more offensively, and Mirotic scored the Bulls final 7 points to give the Bulls the lead before halftime.

Niko's final basket of the half came from Derrick Rose on one of those jump-passes he's seemingly mastered, and it signified the good in the half Rose had, as it was his 6th assist. But otherwise it was not a good initial 2 quarters for Rose: 0-7 from the field, with three of the Bulls eleven turnovers. He looked OK moving on the floor, but the handle was a bit loose, shots were not falling and he was not probing the defense as much as camping outside for entry passes.

Rose had his first make on a set-shot three that he had all day to contemplate, and it began a much better 3rd quarter. Rose had 12 of his 15 points in the third on 4/6 shooting, and the Bulls offense was more utilizing movement and passing as opposed to simply trying to impose themselves physically. The Bulls had 32 points in that third quarter after only 39 in the first half, and not coincidentally only a single turnover in that period.

Jimmy Butler was the beneficiary of a couple Rose drives and passes, and was already having an impressive game despite starting 0/6 from three: he had hit 6/7 from two and 4/6 from the line. As he said himself:

And after a Bucks run (a rare occasion) gave them a 3 point lead in the 4th, Butler and the Bulls exploded.

It was a 13-0 run, all but 3 of which game from Butler himself. A splendid lineup of him, Rose, Snell, Mirotic, and Noah spaced the Bucks out, forced FTAs with their drives, and controlled the glass. Jimmy had 14 points overall in the quarter (for 31 in the game, imagine if he didn't miss 6 free-throws!), going 3-3 from distance, including this ballsy attempt right in the face of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

A lead even as big as merely double-digits against this Bucks team is a pretty safe one, and indeed the Bulls were never threatened again. Milwaukee shot 3/21 to end the game, finishing 35.6% from the field overall, and 11/33 at the rim. Though the Bulls didn't further the damage much (the lineup changed, for one!), Rose had a nice capper of a mid-range jumper to officially seal things. The Bucks can't seem to make the Bulls pay even when they're doing things right defensively, and it's possible that we won't see them in Chicago again this year.

Notes!

  • Part of the reason the lineup changed near the end was because Nikola Mirotic exited the game with an injury in the final minutes. The TNT report was grim, referencing the 'severe pain' as Niko was worked over on the bench by the trainer, but we'll have to just wait and see (it's being called a quad strain for now, though everyone tweeting from the locker room made it sound like a knee injury). Mirotic didn't have a particularly good game, going 3-9 for 8 points and some defensive lapses, but the team performed better with him in the game, his lineups going +11 in 22 minutes.
  • Yes, Mirotic was once again better when at the 4 and not SF in the jumbo lineup. Part of that was due to the dismal outing by Taj in those lineup combinations. Taj had 4 fouls and 3 turnovers in eleven minutes, the first time getting pulled due to foul trouble but the second time for sheer ineffectiveness. We don't even have to wonder: we know he's hurt, he's said it himself.
  • This game had some 'playoff intensity'! It started in the first half when Aaron Brooks tried to take a mid-court charge on an unappreciative John Henson, with Jimmy Butler being his usual instigator self and garnering a tech along with 3 others. There were two separate techs on famed goon Zaza Pachulia that ejected him from the game, including an elbow to Mirotic's head. Shockingly, it wasn't Zaza who injured Niko's leg, but it looked to have happened right beforehand as OJ Mayo knocked knees with him. But even after suffering that injury, he managed to shove Zaza in the back, as the true hero Niko is.
  • The Bulls are just too damned big. They snatched 84.7% of the available defensive rebounds, and over 26% of the offensive ones. And there were a lot of misses in this game. Joakim Noah was not hitting in his standard drives through the lane, but did have 19 rebounds. Pau Gasol had 16. They combined to go 7-21 from the field, but obviously contributed in other ways.
  • Kris Middleton shot 3-7 from three, the rest of the Bucks shot 1-10. Meanwhile the Bulls had another high-volume night from distance going 12-33, with all of Mike Dunleavy's 4 makes coming on threes.
  • For as many misses as Rose had tonight, he was sort-of in triple-double territory with his 9 assists, 7 rebounds, and 15 points. And most importantly: over 38 minutes. I guess there really are no restrictions?