The official Round 1 playoff schedule has arrived, so make sure to mark your calendars.
I’d also recommend taking the subsequent morning off. Whether they miraculously win or expectedly lose, I anticipate you will need some extra time off after each game to get over that hangover.
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) April 13, 2022
• Look, I know I’ve made my fair share of jokes about the Bulls’ possible early playoff departure, but the last thing I plan to do is set myself up for disappointment. The fact of the matter is this team is about to waltz into the first round as arguably the heaviest underdogs in the East (more on that in a post later today), and I think we all understand why. With that being the case, I’m focused far more on simply having fun with the whole thing as opposed to stressing about the actual basketball played over the next couple of weeks. The Bulls are back in the playoffs, and that (within itself) is something worth enjoying. I still have no doubt each game at the United Center will offer a bonkers atmosphere, and there is no question that this team/organization will learn a lot no matter how the season ends.
• DeMar DeRozan seems to be preaching a similar message. No, he’s not walking in as pessimistic about the actual outcome of the series, but he did share with reporters on Tuesday the same words he shared with the team: “Enjoy it. You can’t treat it like you’re going to jail or something,” DeRozan told The Daily Herald’s Mike McGraw. “Only a certain amount of teams have that opportunity. Now, let’s make the best out of it and go out there and compete.”
• Bingo. It became overwhelmingly clear this group was pretty down on itself over the last month or so of the season. And, hey, it’s hard to blame them considering the grueling schedule and persistent injury trouble. However, can this group’s mental toughness catch up to their physical talent? And, to be sure, I don’t present that question as an insult. You don’t know what to expect until you’ve gone through something. DeRozan is someone who has done just that, and I have to imagine it’s why we’ve seen him show up game after game and 4th quarter after 4th quarter. He understands the mindset it takes to compete at the highest level, and he understands this group must go into the playoffs more worried about themselves than who stands on the opposite side of the court.
• The Milwaukee Bucks know DeRozan is their biggest threat. The Athletic’s Eric Nehm spoke to Bucks’ players about their First Round preparation, and there was an added emphasis on defending DeRozan the right way:
“He’s tough. He’s a great player. The ball is going to be in his hands a lot,” Giannis Antetokounmpo told Nehm. “He’s gonna take a lot of shots. He’s gonna make a lot of shots. But we just got to do it together as a team, just make it as tough as possible for him.”
• Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis, and Jrue Holiday talked specifically about keeping DeRozan off the free-throw line. One of the Bulls’ greatest concerns for this series is how well this Bucks’ defense can wall off the paint. The team allows their opponent to shoot the most 3-point attempts per game, but it’s with the goal of preventing higher-percentage drives to the rim and second-chance point opportunities. While that’s naturally bad news for DeRozan, he’s proven crafty enough to still force Bucks’ defenders into foul trouble and maintain a very effective presence on the offensive end. We saw this on full display in the Bulls’ first game against the Bucks back in January, as DeRozan shot a season-high 17-18 from the free-throw line. Milwaukee adjusted their coverage on DeRozan well over the next few games (and Nehm does a great job talking about that, so definitely go read his work), but the fear he can still give the Bucks trouble is clearly there.
• So if the Bulls were to win a game … which is the most likely? I’ve had this discussion with a few friends over the past few days, and the majority have chosen Game 1. The Bucks basically tanked to draw Chicago in the first round, which means it’s not hard to picture a world where they walk into Sunday’s contest a little too comfortable. Sure, they swept the Bulls in the regular season, but this is a whole new ballgame against a well-rested Bulls team with a chip on their shoulder. We’ve seen the Bucks kind of come out flat the past two seasons, as well. As the No. 1 seed in 2019-20, this group dropped their only game to the Orlando Magic in Game 1. Then, last season, they needed a last-second midrange jumper to beat Miami at the Fiserv Forum to open the series (before they went on to blow them out in the next three games).
• For what it’s worth, I could see Game 3 as one the Bulls squeak out. Perhaps that’s simply wishful thinking, but there isn’t quite a tougher place to play in the NBA than a jam-packed United Center in the playoffs. This iteration of the Bucks has yet to experience that, and we also can’t forget the Bulls did finish as one of the better home teams in the East this year (27-14).
• THE BULLS OUT HERE GETTING US HYPED!
It's time, Chicago. The playoffs are HERE. pic.twitter.com/AteohR1qHR
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 13, 2022
• This probably makes me way more excited than it should.
NBA unveils logo for the 2022 Finals, bringing back the old script font: pic.twitter.com/rFR9enBKHw
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 13, 2022
• The Minnesota Timberwolves celebrated the heck out of a Play-In victory last night, and the Inside the NBA crew had some fun with it.
• ICYMI: A woman tried to glue herself to the Timberwolves’ court last night (yes, you read that right), and TNT’s Allie LaForce seems to have finally found out the reason:
The woman who glued herself to court at Clippers/Timberwolves game wore a shirt that said "Glen Taylor Roasts Animals alive." She was referring to an egg farm that he has that had to recently kill chickens because of the bird flu outbreak that has been happening. Yep. @NBAonTNT
— Allie LaForce (@ALaForce) April 13, 2022
• You absolutely love to see it.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) April 13, 2022