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Bulls vs. Bucks Game 4 highlights: a multifaceted malfunctioning

the Bulls offense remains terrible in the postseason

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s lopsided 119-95 Milwaukee Bucks shellacking of your Chicago Bulls in the United Center effectively shut the door on the Bulls’ chances in this series.

The Bucks’ Defense Is Throwing DeRozan For A Loop

(I’m peppering in a Chicago reference to lighten the mood, so... you’re welcome.)

“DeMar DeFrozan” was a nickname first established for Deebo’s less-than-stellar postseason showings on several good-but-not-great Toronto Raptors squads anchored by DDR and Kyle Lowry. It was reappropriated as a positive nickname during a masterful 41-point Game 2 performance (i.e. he had ice in his veins), but unfortunately I’m going to return to the original connotation for the purposes of this examination.

DeRozan did finish with 23 points, albeit on a mediocre 8-of-20 conversion rate from the floor and a game-worst -24 plus-minus rating (his defense mostly amounted to flopping a lot).

Since that Game 2, the Bucks have been clinical in their approach to DeRozan, trapping him early with multiple players and frequently sagging off non-DeRozan Bulls at the three-point line while clogging the paint. Jrue Holiday, the Bucks’ top perimeter defender, frequently drew the individual assignment on DeRozan, and stuck to him like glue before getting abetted by his fellow Bucks whenever DeMar got to the painted area. The Bucks consistently clogged the interior and worked to cut off DeMar’s attack early during a given possession, frequently forcing Chicago to scramble and oftentimes reconstitute its offense on the fly.

Even though the below sequence is bailed out by a Williams corner triple (off a good Tristan Thompson pass), it’s illustrative of Milwaukee’s general strategy for stopping DeMar:

With DeRozan stifled, it hinged on the rest of the Bulls to get cooking on offense. And the Bucks knew that was a gamble worth taking. Zach is clearly playing hurt, unable to properly penalize Milwaukee for occasionally straying. After a solid first contest and a terrific second showing, Nikola Vucevic seems to have faded into the fitfully effective, unassertive jump shooter he had been for much of the 2021-22 regular season.

Thanks to the Bucks’ length, the Bulls struggled to get inside much at all in the first half, exemplified by the absence of even a single foul drawn. Then forced to shoot from beyond the arc, the Bulls converted just nine of their 36 three-point looks. Chicago went just 5-of-19 on its shorter/easier corner three-point attempts.

Overall, even without a very good wing defender in Khris Middleton for a couple games, the Bucks have limited Chicago’s offense to an abysmal level:

It’s a shallow roster

For the fourth straight game, almost all of the Bulls’ bench players were terrible. For my money (and others agree), there are now only two promising role players in Chicago beyond the team’s top four (five including Lonzo Ball).

Even when Alex Caruso isn’t brutalizing his body and guarding every Buck on the floor (he is currently in concussion protocols and his status for Game 5 tomorrow is officially “questionable”), he can occasionally nail an open shot, but hardly enough to worry Milwaukee.

Ostensible shooter Coby White has not proven nearly consistent enough in this series to earn the Bucks’ respect on defense. He’s had exactly one good game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the Game 1 Bulls loss. Beyond that contest, he is averaging 4.3 points a night on 21% shooting (4-of-19 from the floor). But Billy Donovan doesn’t really have many options. Because White has the reputation of being a solid three-point shooter (over his three-year NBA career, he is making 36.5% of his 6.1 attempts a game), he has gotten plenty of run in this series as a release valve when the Bucks seal up DeRozan. But when he isn’t hitting shots, he’s a disaster.

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Patrick Williams had a terrible first half as well, but he converted two triples and two free throws during a 17-3 3rd quarter run. Ultimately got to 20 points in the game overall (3-of-6 from three-point land), but he seemed way more comfortable looking to score with the game well out of hand than he did when things were actually competitive.

Also in that 2nd half, Ayo Dosunmu took the starting assignment (after Caruso’s injury) with his first decent night of the series. He helped galvanize the Bulls to begin the 2nd half, and for the game scored a decently-efficient eight points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field (including 2-of-5 from deep).

Dosunmu has also struggled to find a rhythm in the postseason, going scoreless across his first two games, then notching just four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the Game 3 home blowout. Thus, Game 4 marked the first time this series that he has been allocated more minutes than Coby White off the bench.

Dosunmu’s pretty raw, but the promise of a good 3-and-D player is there. Neither Paw nor Ayo has given Chicago much defensively during this series, but both have the size and strength to one day make an impact on that end in a postseason bout. Williams’s abilities as a good one-on-one defender remain mostly theoretical:

Ultimately this series is showing that the Bulls role players are either unproven like Dosunmu and Williams, or already proven to be not worthy of being in a playoff rotation. Coby, Derrick Jones Jr., Javonte Green, and biannual exception signee Tristan Thompson have not shown nearly enough in this series to suggest they’re worth keeping around.

Grayson Allen Outperformed The Bulls’ All-Stars At The UC

Simple and eye-catching: Grayson Allen had a better two games, playing on Chicago’s home floor, than DeMar DeRozan or Zach LaVine.

Allen was moved to the bench in favor of minimum-salaried midseason addition Wesley Matthews earlier this year, and after an unproductive start (he scored a total of three points across the series’s first two games), has found a major groove during the Bucks’ decisive last two contests. Allen has scored a total of 49 points on 18-of-44 shooting from the floor. He has gone 11-of-14 from deep. Part of this is a function of Chicago occasionally leaving him open in defensive rotations to help on Giannis inside, but you’d think by Game 4 they’d start staying home a bit more.

Already one of the least likable former Duke Blue Devils ever (a high bar to clear), Allen has now apparently fully embraced his role as a heel to Bulls fans, even encouraging teammates to boo him whenever he has the rock.

It’s been the most emotionally disappointing aspect of a likely end to the 2021-22 season.