In the wise words of the late Dennis Green: They are who we thought they were.
The Chicago Bulls showed some pretty tremendous fight in the first two contests of this series. Game 1, as ugly as it may have been offensively, was one of the most physically and mentally tough games we’ve watched this team play all year. They clawed their way back from a 16-point deficit and took the lead in the 3rd quarter. While they may have come up short in the final frame, it was still a surprisingly close affair that gave Milwaukee a bit of a scare.
Indeed, that scare leaked over to Game 2, when the Bulls provided arguably their best two-way performance of the season. Chicago shot just a smidge under 50.0 percent from the field and 48.0 percent from downtown, while they also forced Milwaukee into 15 turnovers. The series was tied … until two days later.
Game 3 was a massive dud. Not only did the Chicago Bulls get their first real taste of what a championship team can do, but they got their first real look at how a playoff series tends to evolve. The goal is to get better with each and every game. Milwaukee – despite losing their second-leading scorer – showed they can do just that in a 30-point beat down. Chicago, on the other hand, showed they may have maxed out their potential.
And that brings us to Game 4. If we’re being honest, I didn’t find this one to be as infuriating as Game 3. The team didn’t come out particularly flat or disgruntled, and they did offer us a tightly-contested 1st quarter that showed they were ready to fight. But what they weren’t ready for was the Bucks’ blend of talent and experience, and that happened to be the exact same problem we saw all regular season long. When push came to shove, the Chicago Bulls showed they weren’t ready to compete with the big dogs.
• Again, at least some of that I sincerely believe is due to an element of newness. One season is not enough time for a roster this fresh, especially when we consider the amount of missed games due to COVID problems and injuries. On the other hand, some of it is also due to real personnel issues and flaws on this roster, which I do plan to address plenty in the coming days/weeks. But we shouldn’t really focus on either of those points just yet, especially since this series has not come to an end. The Bulls will head back to Milwaukee with their backs as smushed against the wall as possible. I don’t think anybody expects them to extend this series to an extra game in Chicago, but this also tends to be when this collectively inexperienced group plays their best basketball.
• Whether it be coming into the season as a perceived borderline Play-In Tournament team or snatching the tiebreakers over Cleveland and Toronto with relative ease, the Bulls seem to play their best basketball when nobody believes in them. Does that mean they will win on Wednesday night? No, but I’m not sure they have to for me to feel ok heading into the offseason. Few teams have managed to make it out of a 3-1 deficit, so all I’m hoping for now is a game where this group can go out swinging. At the end of the day, regardless of how this playoff run ends, it’s still immensely valuable for the players on the roster and the decision-makers upstairs. I think (hope?) this chip being created on everyone’s shoulder it will only benefit this organization long-term.
• I still need more Nikola Vucevic. Look, I understand the Bucks do a better job than anyone at walling off the paint, but I feel like the Bulls still aren’t using the big man enough as an interior playmaker. Not only did he knock down 3 of 5 baskets within 6ft of the rim in Game 4, but good things seem to happen when he gets a chance to use his passing chops. For whatever it’s worth: The Chicago Bulls have won 19 of 28 games this season when the big man dishes at least 4 assists. Vucevic has yet to reach that mark in any of these playoff games, and I think it’s certainly led to some of the lack of creativity we have seen in this Bulls’ offense. To be clear, this isn’t Vucevic’s fault, and I’m also not sure it’s Billy Donovan’s. The Bucks’ defense is merely giving Chicago so little to work with, but I might force the issue more in Game 5 just for the sake of trying.
• Bobby Portis remains a massive problem for the Bulls. They have struggled to adjust to his added presence around the rim, and he made them pay with a 6-12 shooting performance for 14 points and 10 rebounds on Sunday. Portis also got into it with Zach LaVine in the second half, which eventually led to an interesting Twitter exchange between Portis and Bulls color announcer Stacey King. Check it out:
Stacey, relax bro. Didn’t leave on bad terms w nobody in that organization. Stop all that 🧢. Btw Hope y’all know Zach one of my best friends in the league. https://t.co/ayGzRpCksx
— Bobby BP Portis (@BPortistime) April 25, 2022
Never said you did I said some guys left on bad terms…got to read before you respond my guy https://t.co/pyLxiwdovr
— Stacey King (@Stacey21King) April 25, 2022
Again @BPortistime was answering a question that was directed at me and my answer was some guys leave teams on bad terms which is true. If you would’ve saw my earlier tweet about you then you would’ve known that I wasn’t referring to you… https://t.co/N4gBHw4lja
— Stacey King (@Stacey21King) April 25, 2022
• Zach LaVine totally brushed off the situation with Portis when asked about it after the game, stating it was “just old friends seeing each other again.” And, for what it’s worth, Portis has said mostly good things about his time with Chicago in the past. I don’t think he holds that much ill-will toward the organization, and I also don’t think Bulls fans have a huge problem with him. If I know one thing is for sure: I’d take him back on this roster pretty darn quickly.
• I agree that LaVine and DeRozan walking off the floor before the final buzzer sounded last night wasn’t a great look. Yet, at the same time, I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as some have made it sound. Perhaps I’m wrong and we’ll come to learn it created tension inside the locker room, but I think their teammates understand the frustration. Plus, it’s not like this is the final game of the series. If they did this in an elimination game, I think it would be a bigger red flag.
Former NBA head coach @SamMitchellNBA on DeMar & Zach leaving the floor early before the buzzer sounded
— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 (@_Talkin_NBA) April 24, 2022
• At least we have Cubs baseball, right? Oh.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) April 25, 2022
• At least we have the NFL Draft!
It sure would be nice to add some more picks to this graphic. https://t.co/PGnp1k82Qd
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) April 25, 2022