Sunday, May 22, 2022

Breaking Down The Bulls First-Round Playoff Matchup Against The Bucks


The Bulls are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season. There were times during this regular season when the Bulls were in position to be the top seed in the East. There were also times when they looked to be headed to the play-in tournament. Well, here we are as playoffs are set to officially begin this weekend and the Bulls are the 6th seed in the East. The Bulls are lucky enough to draw the defending NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks in their first-round matchup which starts on Sunday.

During the regular season, the Bulls played the Bucks four times. The Bull’s record over that series was 0-4. The first two games were competitive while the final two were ugly. In the first two matchups, the Bulls lost by 4 & 6 points and kept it close. However, in the final two, the Bulls lost by 28 & 21 points. As you can tell those games weren’t exactly close. While their regular season record won’t give many fans hope the Bulls can still find a way to get through round 1. It’s going to take a lot of work and a few key players stepping up.

Who needs to step up for the Bulls to be successful?

There are a couple of obvious players on the Bulls who will need to be playing at a high level to expect anything from this team. Against the Bucks, this year Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan has averaged 31.3 PPG, 47.9 %FG, 4.0 RPG, & 4.0 APG. If the Bulls want to have any shot of winning this series DeRozan will need to stay on par with those numbers. Additionally, we will need to see shooting guard Zach LaVine at a minimum hitting his season averages. LaVine scoring 24+ points each game on top of DeRozan takes a ton of pressure off the rest of the team. However, there are still some key players that need to step up as DeRozan and LaVine can’t carry the entire load.

Nikola Vucevic

The number one player who needs to show up in this series is center Nikola Vucevic. He doesn’t even need to particularly show up on the offensive end of the floor if he can’t do well on the defensive side. He’s about to go up against some tough big men in Milwaukee who will fight for every rebound. Vucevic isn’t necessarily the get-in-the-paint-and-grind type of center.

For the Bulls to be successful they are going to need him to fight on the defensive end of the floor and hold his own. If he can’t do that the Bulls will be in a world of trouble. Backup center Tristan Thompson will likely do okay but he’s not going to be the deal-breaker. If Vucevic can’t hold his own defensively then he needs to be a major scoring threat to offset the poor defense. But for the Bulls, the main thing they will need for this series is interior defense and Nikola Vucevic will need to step up. 

Coby White/Ayo Dosunmu

I am lumping these next two players together because you don’t exactly know how they will be featured in the game. Both guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu need to step up coming off the bench. Dosunmu has more slack considering he’s a rookie but he’s shown that he can play at a high level and now is the time to do so. Coby White has been a bit of a question mark this year. He’s shown flashes of playing well and then games where you want to keep him on the bench. These two are very similar when you look at the stats but one certainly edges out the other.

Throughout this season Ayo has taken smarter shots. He doesn’t force shots up in bad positions. Maybe that’s rookie nerves or maybe he has a better basketball IQ than Coby but either way Dosunmu seems to make better decisions compared to Coby. The issue here is you never know what Coby White is going to show up. It could be the Coby White who goes off for 20+ points which he has done in 11 games this season. However, it could also be the Coby who scores 5 points or less which has happened 12 times this season. Since you don’t know you let him hit the floor and see what happens. That’s where Ayo comes into play.

Dosunmu needs to get out there and show that he’s going to be better than Coby if he isn’t showing up. Give head coach Billy Donovan the confidence to take Coby off the floor and keep you on it. If he can do that when Coby is slumping the bench can continue to thrive instead of limping along with the worst version of Coby. 

It’s an uphill battle

Even with those players stepping up it’s still going to be an uphill battle for the Bulls. They are facing off against a good Milwaukee Bucks team. A team that went 51-31 and had a +3.4 point differential this season. This is also a team coming off a championship last year. The Bulls have the potential to pull off the upset here but it’s going to take a lot. At the end of the day, it matters what the Bulls are thinking ahead of this matchup and for the most part, it seems like they fully believe they can come out on top.

This team can indeed win. They showed that earlier in the season. It’s just unfortunate the team started to fall apart towards the end of the season. Lucky for the Bulls they should have everyone (minus Lonzo Ball) for this playoff series. Injuries hurt this team all season but going into the first round knowing who will be out there is key. This allows coach Donovan to come up with a game plan knowing who will be out there. Even with that, the Bulls will need to fight for every possession during this series to come out on top.

It’s been a while since we’ve had Bulls playoff basketball and all of us hope it won’t be gone just as quick as it came. The Bulls get underway on Sunday and all of Chicago will be watching in anticipation. Hopefully, the Bulls can steal one on the road and come back to Chicago with the series locked at 1 apiece. Buckle up Chicago, this is going to be a tough series for the Bulls and it’s time to show the city what this team can do. 

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