7 p.m., NBC Chicago Sports Network
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t play tonight after injuring his right ankle on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers. Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon remain sidelined.
The Bulls injury report is equally as frightening.
The Bulls have already ruled out Kris Dunn (turf toe) and Zach LaVine (knee tendonitis). Two-way player Antonio Blakeney will miss the remainder of the season with a non-displaced scaphoid fracture in his left wrist. Paul Zipser is doubtful tonight with the same foot injury that prevented him from playing in eight straight games recently. After missing that time, he returned for a four-game stint and averaged seven points on 27.6 percent from the field during that stretch.
The Bulls have upgraded star rookie Lauri Markkanen’s status to questionable for the game tonight. He’s been out since March 12 with re-occurring spasms in his back. The plan seems to be for him to play tonight but be held out in the back-to-back tomorrow.
The Season Series:
The Bulls have gored the Bucks in two of their three matchups this season. Those two wins for the Bulls came during the stretch when they inexplicably rattled off eight wins in ten tries during the “Niko’s back” era of Bulls basketball.
Antetokounmpo has scored 29, 28, and 27 points in his three games against the Bulls this season, so his absence will likely have a significant bearing on the result of the game tonight.
Tonight reeks potential trap game in the sense that the Bulls could mess around, play too well, and beat a vulnerable Bucks team missing its best player.
Chicago native Jabari Parker continues to ease his way back into the flow of things after suffering a serious ACL injury last year. He’s averaged 11.8 points on an impressive 51.4 percent from the field in 20 games this season, but isn’t in position to fill the gaping chasm that Antetokounmpo’s absence leaves. The Bucks best player is probably lengthy wing Kris Middleton who averages 20.2 points per game on efficient shooting and has quietly been one of the most under-the-radar solid players in the NBA this season.
Both players are 6-foot-8-inches tall and could present matchup problems for the Bulls defensively. Parker is a small-ball power forward that the Bulls will likely try to neutralize with Markkanen (if he plays) or Bobby Portis both of whom have their limitations defensively. The Bulls best perimeter defender is David Nwaba (with Dunn out), but he forfeits four inches of height against Middleton on the wing.
Honestly, with a bonafide superstar and solid supplemental talent in Middleton, Parker, Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe, and Thon Maker the Bucks eighth place standing in the shaky Eastern Conference doesn’t look too impressive.
The purpose of tonight for the Bulls, like always, is to
lose watch for small player development victories. If you are into that sort of thing, this is the game for you.