The NBA really should institute some way to avoid this final week mess of teams resting for ‘playoff positioning’. But as it stands, they don’t, and we had some final weekend regular season shenanigans that saw the Milwaukee Bucks essentially tank their last game of the season so they could drop into the 3rd seed and face your Chicago Bulls.
Honestly, if the NBA instituted a rule where the top-seeded teams would choose an opponent, the Bulls may have been the first pick given how they’re playing. I don’t mean over these last couple meaningless games, but the general poor play since Lonzo Ball went down and more acutely after the All-Star break when multiple individual performers regressed.
The Bulls are no longer the team that steamrolled the easier first half of the schedule to get to the top of the conference, but I don’t think they’re as bad as they’d shown the past couple weeks.
Now, they can prove that by simply getting healthier. But unfortunately Billy Donovan made a miscalculation of wanting to see ‘rhythm’ and have only double-lost in that time: neither inspiring confidence on the court nor resting off of it.
So now (and maybe this would be the case regardless, but still) there is still some question as to how much the playing-injured guys can prepare for the first round.
Billy says he will have to manage Zach and Caruso's activity over the week off. Caruso hasn't been doing much physical activity. Wants them both to get practice/scrimmaging in, but will create a plan for them tomorrow along with medical staff— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) April 10, 2022
We have about a week (no schedule out yet) to preview this series. It’s legitimately exciting to be playoff participants (sorry boomers!) for the first time in years, but in a word this matchup will be...tough.
The Bucks are the defending champs, and though have battled with some championship hangover and a nearly season-long injury to Brook Lopez to merely be 3rd in the conference with 51 wins, they also look to have achieved the highest ceiling of any of the conference’s contenders this season.
They have also beaten the Bulls all four times they faced eachother this year. The first two were closer (and the first one saw the Bulls without Zach LaVine), but then these second-half Bulls got demolished in their next two (last one also without Zach, FWIW).
There’s good storylines here beyond the basketball, what with the cities being so close together and Grayson Allen somehow not being kicked out of the league for his umpteenth dirty play injuring Caruso.
Especially given how the Bulls have played these last few months, any series victory would be a longshot. But the Bucks seems like an egregiously bad matchup simply because they don’t have the potential of faceplanting like the Celtics or Sixers would’ve. This is a team who just went through this gauntlet 12 months ago and won the whole thing, so even if the Bulls take a game it likely won’t lead to some systematic breakdown.
Good season, good effort, and again it’s just cool that we will get to watch Bulls playoff basketball again. It may be less cool when actually seeing the action, but here’s hoping the Bulls have a formula (or fluke) to make things interesting.