A lot to digest after this one. But naturally, we must start at the end. The Bucks won, 92-90, on a dramatic buzzer beating layup by Jerryd Bayless. A buzzer beating layup that came by way of backdooring Derrick Rose, and leading up to that, an unfortunate Rose turnover on the possession prior. The last two plays of the game certainly can be pinned on Rose, but the entirety of the game certainly cannot. In fact, one might be inclined to say coaching had as much an impact on this game as anything.
Jason Kidd's quick-thinking timeout following Rose's late turnover with about a second left -- and then using both of his remaining timeouts to then advance the ball past halfcourt -- showed why Kidd finished third in the Coach of the Year race. But it wasn't just that.
Kidd's bench outscored Chicago's by 34 points, led by O.J. Mayo's team-high 18. Kidd squeezed the most out his rotations, whereas Tom Thibodeau was reluctant to make the appropriate adjustments. For example, at one point during the second quarter, the Bulls had allowed Milwaukee to go on a 21-2 run. Of course, Thibs' lineup selection during this time featured Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic sharing the court. And beyond that, for the game those three players scored a combined 17 points on 7-19 shooting.
Yes, it's on the players to play better. Noah and Gibson were -23 and -16 respectively in +/-. (Mirotic wasn't much better sitting at +2). But to that same extent, isn't it on the coach to place the players in the best positions to garner success? The jumbo lineup cost the Bulls dearly tonight. Spacing was suffocated; driving lanes were non-existent. But, perhaps, we should also acknowledge how poorly the Bulls' second unit has been as a whole this series. Aside from Tony Snell's shooting in Game 3 and Gibson's rebounding in Game 1, pretty lackluster effort put forth by the second unit.
No Bucks' starter scored more than 10 points in this game.Kidd recognized he's not getting enough from his main guys -- and whether he truly wanted to or not -- made appropriate changes. If you want to credit any aspect of Thibs' coaching tonight, it's that he didn't play Kirk Hinrich until the game's final few possessions for defensive purposes.
Moving away from Thibs, though, the Bulls simply didn't deserve to win tonight when you look at all the turnovers. They committed 28 of them. 28. Rose led the way with eight, Pau Gasol was close behind with five. The Bucks completely took Gasol out of the game, although he finished with perhaps his emptiest double-double on the season with 16 points and 10 boards. And all those turnovers led to 39 points off of them for Milwaukee. Which was the tangible box score difference that decided the outcome.
However, in spite of the historic amount of turnovers, literally the only reason this game came down to a buzzer beating shot was because of Jimmy Butler. In a season full of special games, tonight might've been Butler's finest effort to date: 33 points on 12-17 shooting, seven rebounds and three steals. While Butler's counterpart, Khris Middleton, is indeed a very good player, this series has shown the difference between a good wing player and an elite one. Maybe the Bulls should just cut Butler a blank check now?
But it's a shame that we won't remember this game for Butler's incredible play. No, instead, we'll remember Rose turning the ball over and then getting beat on the game's final play. We'll remember that Jo is becoming a complete liability before our very eyes.
We'll remember this game as a 2014-15 Bulls classic: play with zero sense of urgency in an opportunity to squash an inferior opponent and then proceed to lose in deservedly stunning fashion. There's no feeling sorry for this team even if this one loss may not ultimately matter much.
It would have been nice to break out the brooms in an arena looking like this:
Based on this shot -- and its like this all over the arena -- where would you guess this game is being played? pic.twitter.com/8s3DvGNu3s— Bradford Doolittle (@bbdoolittle) April 25, 2015
Alas, we must now hope that the Bulls can take care of business in Game 5 at home in Chicago on Monday night. This series has been wonderfully exciting. Although, again, we saw technicals, flagrant fouls, and physical spats, which halted play. But I guess that depends on whether you are an Old School basketball watcher who enjoys that kind of stuff. At any rate, the series has been a good one, folks.
We'll see if Rose and Butler will continue trading games to have stellar performances. It should be noted, though, that Rose performs far worse in games on one day of rest or fewer. So in that sense, Rose playing poorly tonight probably should've been anticipated.
It'll also be interesting to see -- however unlikely it may be -- if Thibs makes changes to his lineups and rotations. Perhaps one loss against a try-hard Milwaukee team doesn't do enough to force Thibs to get desperate. One can hope, though.
Because far bigger problems are likely awaiting the Bulls in the second round. And by that point, a combination of careless play and nonsensical lineup combinations could prove fatal.