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Last night was a sobering reminder of how bleak '10th place in the East' is
a.k.a.: are we sure DeRozan and LaVine weren't already shut down?
This final week of the regular season is a convenient time to remind everyone of the ‘BlogABull difference’ when it comes to covering this team: I pledge to not put much effort in recapping game action in games that don’t matter. I am free from the shackles of SBNation implying that every game needed a quick recap and it was the best way to get views. I’m using that phrasing to exaggerate, it totally makes sense and wasn’t a burden…but it was kind of superfluous content.
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I think it’s pretty appropriate to not give a full honest effort in analyzing a game that the Bulls players themselves didn’t really come out for.
The Bulls were pretty close to already knowing their play-in fate before the game, and even with Giannis out for the Bucks it looked like the Bulls stars especially were playing with that in mind. Both DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine had terrible games in Milwaukee: DeRozan didn’t have a basket until the 4th quarter, ultimately finishing with 8 points on 3-12 shooting. LaVine had 13 points after 17 shots including going 1-8 from three point range. I know this is partially bias fueled by how they look when they play well, but I consider a performance like this from DeRozan to be more ‘just having a bad game’ whereas LaVine more ‘outright looks disinterested’. But that said, DeRozan was doing some obvious stat-padding in the 2nd half just to make sure he didn’t have his worst game as a Bull.
Elsewhere against the Bulls offense, the Bucks - who, again: no Giannis, and Khris Middleton left the game after only 8 minutes - kind of followed the playbook they employed to throttle Chicago last playoffs: let them shoot. With Patrick Williams starting for the injured Alex Caruso, the Bulls starters went 2-12 from the field (1-5 from three) in their opening stint, and quickly were down double digits for the 3rd game in a row.
The Bulls did not rollover as soon as I thought they would, even with DeRozan and LaVine’s struggles the Bulls turned the game around and actually built a 10 point lead after a 10-2 run to start the 2nd half. But the Bulls were ultimately outscored that quarter by 5, and the Bucks eventually just overwhelmed them. Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez are a fantastic 1-2 punch (and and even better 3-4 punch, maybe how they won an NBA title), and Bobby Portis always plays the Bulls like he was the one who got punched in the face.
It’s not news that the Bucks are a class above, even without Giannis and Middleton they did what they do: great defense, launch threes. The Bulls scored 92 points in a regulation 2023 NBA game, and the Bucks went 18-46 from distance.
And this is the team the Bulls now will face in the playoffs, and that’s if following the best case scenario from the play-in tournament! Milwaukee clinched the #1 seed with their win last night, and the Bulls are now officially locked into #10. That means they will have to win two road games for even the privilege of getting steamrolled by the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs, again.
The Bulls have 2 more games this regular season: at Dallas on Friday, then Sunday against the league-worst Pistons. It is my forthright promise to not care about these games at all. There was a lot of consternation post-game last night about whether the Bulls will also not care about these games. Billy Donovan wanted to sound coach-y in the moment, but I’d expect the Bulls ‘big’ three to sit both, and keep Caruso out to heal as well. There is no benefit to playing them, any ‘rhythm’ maintained is in a non-competitive environment anyway and you can just jog around the gym instead.
What these next 2 games will be important for is it’ll give Patrick Williams a chance to DOMINATE, and trick people into thinking he would do this all the time if only the Bulls actually-good offensive players were out of his way. Such on-ball juice, much flashes.
It’s looking extremely likely the Bulls know their next real game: next Wednesday in Toronto to face the Raptors. A very slight chance it’ll be instead in Atlanta to face the Hawks. We’ll know for sure after Friday night’s “action”.
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