With the Cavaliers losing tonight, the Bulls were guaranteed a top-6 seed in the playoffs before their game was over. But this matchup against the Bucks was another test against a good team for Chicago, who has struggled mightily against squads of this caliber.
They failed at that, again, with another mostly non-competitive loss at a 127-106 result.
Milwaukee took control of the game in the first half and raced out to a 12 point lead at halftime. It soon ballooned up to as much as 20 in the third quarter.
With Zach LaVine out due to knee soreness, it was on DeRozan to carry the offense and that’s absolutely what he did. He struggled in the first quarter but was basically on fire for the rest of the game as he finished with 40 points and six assists, going 16 of 26 from the field. Thanks to the heroics of DeRozan, the Bulls fought back and cut into the lead. Yet each time they were on the verge of making it a single digit game, the Bucks would respond with huge buckets to squash any momentum.
As a team, Chicago shot decently from the field at 42.9 percent but once again, shot woefully from three at 27.9 percent. It has to be a priority in the offseason for this team to get guys who are willing to take (and make) threes.
The Bulls turned the ball over 15 times, leading to 16 Milwaukee points.
Patrick Williams was the next leading scorer for Chicago in what was easily his best game since returning from injury. He finished with a season high 18 points along with six offensive boards, going seven of nine from the field. This was the most confident offensively he has looked in a long time including a moment when he went strong to the basket and slammed it down with his left hand. In a bad night on the court for the Bulls, Williams play was one of the few positives.
On the other hand, Nikola Vucevic had one of his worst games of the season. He went three of 19 from the field to finish with a mere seven points and six rebounds. Vucevic was even missing layups as the ball simply wouldn’t go in the basket for him (he had two three-pointers go in and out). It didn't make matters any better that his counterpart, Brook Lopez, out played him massively. It’s been an up and down season for Vucevic and having a performance like this before the playoffs is troubling but there are still three games left in the regular season to find any sort of momentum.
There was an incident in the fourth quarter where he hit Grayson Allen in the face after Lopez was called for an offensive foul, picking up a technical.
Alex Caruso continues to struggle offensively as well, finish with 0 points but registering eight assists. He missed all five of his three point attempts as his shot still hasn’t come back since returning from a wrist injury. Ayo Dosunmu had a good start to the game, scoring the Bulls first handful of points. He finished with nine points, six rebounds along with two steals.
Billy Donovan went further into his bench than he usually does, giving minutes to Derrick Jones Jr. in the second half as it was clear Chicago was struggling with Milwaukee in terms of size and spacing. DJJ knocked down two shots from deep to finish with six points and two rebounds. Coby White played the most minutes out of the reserves, finishing with 13 points and going three of seven from downtown. The shooting performance was encouraging given his struggles in Chicago’s recent stretch of games.
Meanwhile for the Bucks, they had seven guys in double figures including all five starters. Lopez led the way with 28 points while Giannis finished with 18 after scoring zero in the first. Khris Middleton added 19 points while Jrue Holiday notched a double double.
The important thing for Chicago is now the danger of being in the play-in is now gone. They don't have to worry anymore about having to play an extra game and going home before the first round even starts. Now is the time to consider resting guys for the remainder of the regular season. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Lonzo Ball will be coming back, but there’s still time for LaVine and Caruso, who are currently nursing injuries so they could be two candidates for rest. We may see a deeper bench in the final three games as Chicago gears up for it’s first playoff appearance in five years.