[Thanks to apartmentinthearea for today's game preview. He's a first-timer! You can be one too by signing up! -yfbb]
I can't help but lead with...
How will he follow it up!?
Jimmy Butler didn't just pull his best "Jimmy Jordan" to date, but he invigorated his team and gave everyone in Chicago something positive to talk about. Sure, there are always going to be those who wonder if this game could of been possible with Derrick on the court or those who think that a reliance on isolation heavy offense could be detrimental. I chose to instead sit back and watch him score alllllll those points. The phrase "leading by example" has been thrown around plenty this year, and he took it upon himself to do just that on Sunday. Well before it was an individual offensive barrage, it was a team struggling to control the game and avoid let down after a great run over the holidays. Butler is no doubt the catalyst in this stretch of games by the Bulls, whether it's his performance on Christmas or his end game heroics against the Pacers. The Bucks do bring a variety of lanky defenders and an aggressive scheme to town, but one that doesn't have the best track record vs him. Butler averaged 24.8ppg against the Bucks in the Playoffs last year, playing over 42 minutes per game.
The Bucks and Bulls are not only playing their first game at the United Center this season, but their first in general. While it may not be completely unheard of to avoid a team until Game 33 of 82, that right is usually reserved for the twice a year match-ups vs the Western Conference. The oddity of playing the Bucks this late is even harder to grasp, because we played them 10 times last year! The Bulls took 3 of 4 in the regular season and then disposed of the Bucks in a playoff series that will not soon be forgotten. WE REMEMBER WHAT YOU DID GIANNIS! Many faces have changed since that series but hopefully the intensity is still there! The Bucks are on the 2nd night of a back-to-back (Losing to the Spurs 123-98) and the last thing the Bulls can afford is a game in which they are out worked. The Bucks find themselves at 14-22 this season (5-15 on the road) but are a surprising 5-3 playing without a day of rest. I dug a little deeper into those 8 games, and learned that their wins on back-to-backs were against the Nets (twice), Nuggets, Knicks, and of course... Golden State. The Bulls, while they don't bring the allure of stopping an unbeaten streak, are most likely a team the Bucks will get up for. When you pair that with a relatively light workload in the Spurs game, I don't see two games in two days being much of a factor.
Things to Watch For:
- Derrick Rose is a "game-time decision", but it seems like most expect to see him, and I'm hoping for a positive update to this post. I also hope that we see Rose pushing the basketball and attacking like he did the games prior to his hiatus.
- Joakim Noah is still out, but has been upgraded to "he's just not quite ready. It's daily now." which is probably a good sign. We've seen Jo play through plenty in the past, so extra time to mend (and extra minutes for Bobby!) is a welcomed. Since being freed, Portis is averaging 9.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in just 21.8 minutes per game. He seems to be a perfect fit to combat the energy and versatility of Giannis/Jabari in this the first of many match-ups to come.
- Per BrewHoop, Jerryd Bayless "re-sprained his ankle" and did not return to the game against the Spurs. This likely means more minutes for Michael Carter-Williams, and an interesting match-up for Brooks, Rose(?) and Etwaun. Jason Kidd (who is still away from the team following hip surgery) would routinely post up MCW against the Bulls last season, and if others are spacing the floor and hitting their shots it could be an issue. Also, The fact that I can't see Jerryd Bayless beat us on a buzzer beater is comforting.
- O.J. Mayo has had an interesting few days; it started with an ejection from the Timberwolves game, was followed by a $25,000 fine, and then resulted in a -25 in 24 minutes against the Spurs. Mayo is shooting a career low 38.4% from the field this year.
- Chicago native Jabari Paker will only be playing his 2nd game against the Bulls, and his first NBA game in Chicago. His only game against the Bulls was November 2014 in Milwaukee.
When looking at these two teams in last years playoffs most assumed that they would both be poised for even better 2015-16 campaigns. That has not necessarily been the case with Milwaukee, and despite the proximity and recent history between these two teams this is a game the Bulls must be able to close out. These games mean a little something extra to the fans involved no matter the records, and I hope that it gives us some quality entertainment. I'm a Chicago sports fan who grew up in Wisconsin (no, I have not watched Making a Murderer yet), so I need all these wins I can get after the punishment the Packers have given me over the years.
Here is to my irrational hatred of Giannis!!
Prediction: Bulls 103 - Bucks 89
Dunkin' Donuts Race: Biggie Bagel
Big Macs? : Yes
GAME: Chicago Bulls vs Milwaukee Bucks
TIME: 7:00pm CT
RADIO: WMVP ESPN 1000AM / WRTO 1200