In the Eastern Conference, the No. 3 seed Chicago Bulls (50-32) face the No. 6 seed Milwaukee Bucks after strong seasons from two teams which finished to unpredictable results when during the season each team suffered injuries to their respective star player (Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker, respectively). In Jason Kidd’s first season in Milwaukee, the Bucks went from having the worst record in the league (15-67) to the No. 6 seed in the conference (41-41).
Bulls players to watch
Derrick Rose had a solid season (17.7 points per game, 40.5 field goal percentage, 81.3 free throw percentage, 3.2 rebounds per game and 4.9 assists per game) in his return from knee surgery and looks to be regaining his form in time for his team’s postseason push. Butler (20.0 points per game, 46.2 field goal percentage, 83.4 free throw percentage, 5.8 rebounds per game and 3.3 assists per game) had a breakout campaign in Rose’s absence and has emerged as scoring threat. Mike Dunleavy (9.4, points per game, 43.5 field goal percentage, 40.5 3-point percentage, 80.5 free throw percentage 3.9 rebounds per game), Gasol (18.5 points per game, 49.4 field goal percentage, 80.3 free throw percentage, 11.8 rebounds per game and 1.8 steals per game) and Noah (7.2 points per game, 44.5 field goal percentage, 60.3 free throw percentage, 9.6 rebounds per game and 4.7 assists per game) provide rebounding and a strong defensive presence in the paint.
Aaron Brooks (11.6 points per game, 42.1 field goal percentage, 83.3 free throw percentage and 3.2 assists per game), Taj Gibson (10.3 points per game, 50.2 field goal percentage, 71.7 free throw percentage and 6.4 rebounds per game), Tony Snell (6.0 points, 42.9 field goal percentage, 80 free throw percentage and 2.4 rebounds per game) and Nikola Mirotic (10.2 points per game, 40.5 field goal percentage, 80.3 free throw percentage, 4.9 rebounds per game and 1.2 assists per game) are notable bench players to watch for Chicago this postseason. Brooks, Gibson and Dunleavy provide the Bulls’ bench with veteran presence and scoring punch while Snell and Mirotic provide the team with a trio of young players to mix with the veterans on the roster.
Michael Carter-Williams (14.6 points per game, 39.6 field goal percentage, 5.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists per game and 1.7 steals per game), Giannis Antetokounmpo (12.7 points per game, 49.1 field goal percentage, 74.1 free throw percentage, 6.7 rebounds per game and 2.6 assists per game), Khris Middleton (13.4 points per game 46.7 field goal percentage, 40.7 3-point percentage 85.9 free throw percentage, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game), Ersan Ilysova (11.5 points per game, 47.2 field goal percentage 38.9 3-point percentage and 4.8 rebounds per game) and Zaza Pachulia (8.3 points per game 45.4 field goal percentage 78.8 free throw percentage, 6.8 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists per game) is the projected starting lineup for the Bucks, which outscored opponents by 8.5 points per possession in the time they have been together on the court (link to Mike Mazzeo story).
Jerryd Bayless (7.8 points per game, 42.6 field goal percentage, 88.3 free throw percentage, 3.0 assists per game and 2.7 rebounds per game), O.J. Mayo (11.4 points per game, 42.2 field goal percentage, 82 free throw percentage, 2.8 assists per game and 2.6 rebounds), John Henson (7.0 points per game, 56.6 field goal percentage, 56.9 free throw percentage and 4.7 rebounds per game) and Jared Dudley (7.2 points per game 46.8 field goal percentage, 38.5 3-point percentage, 71.6 free throw percentage, 3.1 rebounds per game and 1.8 assists per game) are key veteran contributors to watch on Milwaukee’s bench during this first round series.
My prediction: I find the outcome of this series relying on the play of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah and the defensive play of the Bucks, who surrendered an average of 97.4 points per game during the regular season.
Information used in this story was gathered from espn.go.com and each team’s website.
Game 1: Saturday, Milwaukee at Chicago, 6 p.m. CT (ESPN)
Game 2: Monday, Milwaukee at Chicago, 7 p.m. CT
Game 3: Thu. April 23, Chicago at Milwaukee, 7 p.m. CT
Game 4: Sat. April 25, Chicago at Milwaukee, 4:30 p.m. CT
*Game 5: Mon. April 27, Milwaukee at Chicago, TBD
*Game 6: Thu. April 30, Chicago at Milwaukee, TBD
*Game 7: Sat. May 2, Milwaukee at Chicago, TBD