Bucks vs Bulls Preview
The 22-11 Milwaukee Bucks take on the 14-19 Chicago Bulls Wednesday Night right off State Street in Downtown Chicago. The Bucks are wrapping up a tough five game road trip with a tough loss to Boston on Christmas Day. While the Bucks haven’t looked right recently, the Bulls haven’t looked right all year. They are only 7-8 at home. They are not a very good three-point shooting team.
The Bulls shoot a league low 29 three point attempts a game. They only make 10 threes a game. As a point of comparison the Bucks shoot 37 threes a game and usually make 13 of them. In today’s NBA you kinda live and die by the three.
The Bulls are well coached by Billy Donovan and have good players. They were the talk of the NBA to start last season as they went an impressive 37-21 before the All-Star break. They faded after that going 8-16 to finish the season as the 6th seed where they lost to the Bucks in the playoffs.
Chicago has had some time off here, last playing (and winning) against the Knicks on the 23rd. Giannis always plays well following a loss.
Keys for the Bucks
Exploit the Bulls poor three point defense and defensive play of Nikola Vucevic
The talk on Chicago Sports radio continues to be all about Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls starting center, playing out of position. He really struggles to defend, especially the pick n roll. This is something Milwaukee needs to focus on, all the time, whenever they play against him.
Lopez and Portis need to play better here. They should have plenty of open looks.
Why the talk in Chicago seems to center on Vucevic is because the Bulls gave up a lot to get him (Wendall Carter, Otto Porter Jr and two first round picks) It was a move that helped get the Bulls back into the playoffs. But because of Vucevic they have not been able to make that next step. His poor defense or at least the continued perception of him being a bad defender hurts.
The Bulls are one of the top two teams in the NBA in terms of 3 point defense. Their opponents average 38% made shots against them. As a point of comparison Milwaukee only allows opponents a 35% made clip. 3% may not seem like a lot but extrapolate that over a few games and those points really add up quickly.
Keep rebounding the ball
As we discuss a lot in these preview pieces, the Bucks continue to team rebound well. They are second as a team in the NBA at 48 rebounds a game. Chicago is in the bottom five in terms of team rebounding, 42 rebounds a game. Six possession changes in the NBA is a lot.
The Opponent- The Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are a much better team with Lonzo Ball who is currently injured. But again, they still have some great players. DeMar DeRozan is having a great season, averaging 26/5/4. Zach Lavine has struggled at times but is still second on the team in scoring. 22-yr old Ayo Dosunmu has given the team some good energy, all while picking up the slack for an injured Ball.
Part of the challenge Chicago has had, other than not being able to shoot the three, is Alex Caruso has been injured off and on. He is that player that really does “the little things” well.
Patrick Williams is a good your player. He leads the team in block shots.
Yet the 32 yr old Vucevic is the piece that seems to steer the ship. He’s a good three point shooter (37.7% this year) and rebounds well. He also has wild stretches where he turns the ball over and again, struggles against the pick n roll.
Things to tell your buddies while you are watching the game
- It is fun to look at league-wide statistics this time of the year. In an average NBA basketball game a team usually has 100 + total possessions. (Milwaukee is averaging 103 this year.) Right now, the NBA is at an all-time high in team field goal percentage and number of possessions.
- According to some metrics I was able to check out, most pundits still have the Bucks at a 20%+ chance to win a championship.
- Milwaukee has a 99% chance to make the playoffs.
- Giannis always plays well after a loss. His points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game average all go up following a loss. What goes down? Free-throw shooting percentage. Just another reason to not put too much faith in statistics.
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