The Chicago Bulls have lost something like (won’t look it up) 15 of their last 16 against the Bucks, and that lone Bulls win was a rest-for-playoffs type of game for Milwaukee.
That’s not totally significant as it’s pretty much a brand new team this year, and the Giannis Bucks give lots of teams problems. But for last night it was a stark reminder that the Bulls are still very undersized and look out of their depth when facing their neighbors to the north.
As a reminder, the Bucks won the title last year with Brook Lopez starting at center. This matchup against the Bulls was the first time since returning from a (pretty much) season-long injury that he started alongside Giannis.
Especially for a Bulls team that doesn’t space the floor very well, it is very difficult to get good shots when Lopez is waiting in the lane:
And of course Giannis is another frontline obstruction:
And they even went to some jumbo lineups with Giannis at the small forward alongside Bobby Portis and Serge Ibaka
As we know, the Bulls shoot a very low percentage of three-pointers (even worse without Lonzo Ball for much of this season) and need to get inside to score or at least get to the line. To that second point, the free throw disparity was huge, and you can see in some of the clips above some calls that could’ve gone the Bulls way. Billy Donovan certainly thought so, saying postgame that he’d never seen an opponent called for so few defensive fouls. Alex Caruso was more realistic, acknowledging especially so in a playoff-type game, this Bucks defense gets the benefit of the doubt.
So then what of the Bulls beefing up on their own, using self-purported and Stacey King-purported tough veteran leader Tristan Thompson.
Well, problem there is he stinks:
5 points, 4 rebounds for Tristan Thompson tonight against the Bucks' huge frontline.— Mark K (@mkhoops) March 23, 2022
Here's every defensive possession.
What is he bringing that DJJ can't?
• Playing deep in the drop
• Isn't effective on switches
• Little to no rim protection pic.twitter.com/DclB8nvf22
I don’t think playing Derrick Jones or Patrick Williams at center, especially in this matchup, would fare much better. But it’d be an adjustment, as playing them straight-up didn’t work.
Thompson also had a pointless scuffle with Serge Ibaka in garbage time, which looks especially bad considering he was talking a big game about avenging Caruso on Grayson Allen and then no avenging occurred. I’m not saying signing Thompson caused the vibes to go bad...but they’ve been bad since he’s signed.