Round 1 Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks - Everything You Need to Know Before Tonight

Social Navigation

Round 1 Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks – Everything You Need to Know Before Tonight

Chicago Bulls

Well … here we are.

I’ve babbled on and on this week about my expectations, excitement, and concerns. Other than spewing some of the information below, I don’t have much else left to say. All we can do now is tip the ball and enjoy the show.

*raises a glass*

Go Bulls.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

Game 1: Fiserv Forum | Sunday, April 17 | 5:30 p.m. CT (TNT)
Game 2: Fiserv Forum| Wednesday, April 20 | 8:30 p.m. CT (TNT)
Game 3: United Center | Friday, April 22 | 7:30 p.m. CT (ABC)
Game 4: United Center | Sunday, April 24 | 12:00 p.m. CT (ABC)
*Game 5: Fiserv Forum | Wednesday, April 27 | TBD
*Game 6: United Center | Friday, April 29 | TBD
*Game 7: Fiserv Forum| Sunday, May 1 | TBD

*If necessary

Projected Starting Lineups

Chicago Bulls: 

1. Ayo Dosunmu
2. Zach LaVine
3. DeMar DeRozan
4. Patrick Williams
5. Nikola Vucevic

Milwaukee Bucks: 

1. Jrue Holiday
2. Wes Matthews
3. Khris Middleton
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
5. Brook Lopez

Injury Report

Bulls: Lonzo Ball OUT (knee), Matt Thomas OUT (lower leg)

Bucks: Jordan Nwora PROBABLE (back soreness)

Bulls Rotation Notes

If I had to guess, the Bulls’ initial eight-man rotation will feature Alex Caruso, Coby White, and Tristan Thompson alongside the normal starters. Caruso is an obvious inclusion, and I guess it’s possible Donovan opts to put him in the starting lineup over Dosunmu. However, I think the defensive stoppers grounding presence off the bench makes more sense, and this would allow Donovan a bit more flexibility with his role throughout the game.

Picking White over Green is a complicated decision. While Green undoubtedly provides the defensive versatility and energy this team needs, White’s shooting potential alone probably gives him the edge. The Bucks allow the most 3-point attempts per game, and I have to imagine Donovan will want White out there to help space the floor and be a move convincing catch-and-shoot threat.

Anyway, I wrote a little more about this in the post below, if you’re curious:

Numbers to Know


EFG%: 54.1 (10th)
TOV%: 13.0 (6th)
OREB%: 24.9 (28th)
FT RATE: .248 (17th)

Net Rating: -0.5 (20th)


EFG%: 54.6 (6th)
TOV%: 13.3 (10th)
OREB%: 26.9 (16th)
FT RATE: .257 (9th)

Net Rating: 3.2 (8th)

What to Watch For

Can the Bulls hit the 3-ball? 

We’ve already talked about this at length, but the Bulls will have little chance to stay alive in this series if they continue to shoot as poorly as they have from behind the arc.

Milwaukee’s defense focuses heavily on guarding the paint, so much so they allow opponents to shoot the most 3-point attempts per game. The Bulls have shot just 34.8 percent from behind the arc since the All-Star break, which ranks 21st in the NBA. They also continue to shoot the lowest volume of 3-point attempts a night. Nikola Vucevic is going to have to establish his 3-ball off the pick-and-pop early this series, and it’s now or never for Coby White to find his rhythm.

Mix it up

Arguably the Bulls’ most successful outing against the Bucks came back on March 4 at the United Center. They may have lost by 6 points, but a 35-24 3rd quarter effort showed us how the team’s speed and athleticism could give the Bucks’ defense some trouble.

While the Bucks remain stout on the defensive end, their rating this season has fallen to just 14th-best in the NBA. The Bulls should try their best to double-down on their transition skills, emphasizing a more up-tempo game when the half-court artistry of DeMar DeRozan is off the floor. LaVine’s work with the second unit of Coby White, Derrick Jones Jr., and Ayo Dosunmu in that early March performance is a big reason why they were in a position to pull off the win.

The Bulls also can’t be afraid to give this Bucks squad some different looks on the defensive end. They have to play aggressively, physically, and fearlessly.

Still Pound the Paint

Yes, the Bucks allow the 4th-fewest points in the paint per game, but the Chicago Bulls still have two of the most crafty and skillful scorers in the game. Chicago must continue to play their style of basketball to the best of their ability, and that includes trying to get to the free-throw line.

While Milwaukee is one of the most disciplined teams when it comes to sending opponents to the charity stripe, DeMar DeRozan has averaged the 5th-most free-throw attempts per game this season. LaVine has also upped his game since the All-Star break, shooting the 12th-most total freebies in the NBA over his last 20 games. Both players should attack guys like Wes Matthews, Bobby Portis, and Grayson Allen off the dribble any chance they get. The sooner they try to put the Bucks in foul trouble, the better.

Vucevic has to let it fly

The Bulls aren’t going to stay competitive in this series without Nikola Vucevic playing some of his basketball of the season.

Not only will the big man have to be in the right place at the right time on the defensive end, but he’s going to have to put up an aggressive fight on the glass against a group that averages the 2nd-most rebounds per game. Also, Vucevic simply can’t be afraid to chuck up shots on the offensive end. What has made Vucevic rise up the league ranks in years past is his ability to stretch the floor, and the Bucks’ drop defense will allow him plenty of great looks off the screen and roll.

We saw him shoot 60 percent or better in two of the four games against Milwaukee this season, and we can’t forget his stellar first-round series against the team two years ago when he averaged 28.0 points on 50.5 percent shooting from the field and 40.9 percent from downtown. He’s found prior success against Brook Lopez and Co., and the Bulls will need that to happen again to avoid an early exit.

Get Caught Up:

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.