Bulls win series, 4-2
Chicago Bulls fans are breathing a sigh of relief after finally closing out the pesky Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6. Make no bones about it, the clincher was NOWHERE near a contest. Chicago took care of business, 120-66. It was the first game where the Bulls established a defensive identity and had strong rotations. On offense, the ball moved crisply from side to side, as shooters like Mike Dunleavy (20 points) tickled the twine from deep (15-30 from beyond the arc).
The overarching theme was physicality. Numerous altercations heightened the intensity for these Division Rivals, with Game 6 being no exception. Giannis Antetokoumnpo was ejected for clocking Dunleavy, OJ Mayo and Jimmy Butler clashed yet again and Michael Carter-Williams picked up a tech as well.
The Bucks used rough play and execution to push Chicago to 6 games…but in a weird way, it prepared the Bulls for what’s to come. Against the Cavs, you better believe there will be even more altercations in that hotly contested matchup.
On the basketball side, Chicago is healthy and received nice performances from Derrick Rose (avg. 19 ppg & 6 apg) in the first round. He started attacking the rim more as the series went along, which opened up everything for Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and co. Jimmy Butler played his “usual” minutes (avg. 40+) and showed out with athleticism, attacked Milawukee’s small guards in the post, and got to the line. The backcourt dominance and overall depth will be key for the Bulls to defeat Cleveland.
Milwaukee should not hang their heads despite getting embarrassed last night. Jason Kidd motivated and maximized the talent on the roster and found a few gems in the process, including Khris Middleton and John Henson. Retaining Middleton in free agency will be another big step for the Bucks to return to prominence.
And with the return of Jabari Parker from a torn ACL, they could be a dark horse contender in 2015-16.
A tight battle throughout, the main difference in this series actually came after the buzzer sounded. Before Game 6, Butler, Gasol and Rose vehemently proclaimed that regaining a defensive intensity will help them finally get past the Bucks.
Chicago backed up its strong talk by winning by a franchise-record 54 points.
Chicago has a couple days of rest before traveling to Cleveland for Game 1. Tom Thibodeau has enough time to figure out the correct lineups to face to “Lovestruck” Cavs.
Don’t be surprised if Taj Gibson (matches up with Tristan Thompson) and Nikola Mirotic (floor spacing) are featured heavily next round.
Milwaukee is owning the future. As we mentioned, the return of Jabari makes them a much more formidable unit. In the offseason, keeping Middleton and securing both more shooting & rim protection could put them in great shape.