Bulls vs. Bucks Game 4 Highlights: A Multifaceted Dysfunction

Sunday’s lopsided 119-95 bombardment of the Milwaukee Bucks against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center effectively shut the door on the Bulls’ chances in this series.

Bucks defense throws DeRozan for a loop

(I’m spicing up a Chicago reference to lighten the mood, so…nothing.)

“DeMar DeFrozan” was a nickname created for Deebo’s less than stellar playoff performances on several good but not great Toronto Raptors teams anchored by DDR and Kyle Lowry. It has been reappropriated as positive nickname in a masterful 41-point performance in Game 2 (meaning he had ice in his veins), but sadly, I’ll revert to the original connotation for the purposes of this review.

DeRozan finished with 23 points, but with a mediocre conversion rate of 8 of 20 from the floor and a game-worst -24 plus-minus rating (his defense was mostly flopped a lot).

Since that Game 2, the Bucks have been clinical in their approach to DeRozan, trapping him early with multiple players and frequently sagging non-DeRozan Bulls at the three-point line while clogging the paint. Jrue Holiday, the Bucks’ top perimeter defenseman, frequently drew the individual mission on DeRozan and stuck to him like glue before being cheered on by his fellow Bucks every time DeMar arrived in the painted area. The Bucks constantly clogged inside and worked to cut off DeMar’s offense at the start of any given possession, frequently forcing Chicago to scramble and often replenish their offense on the fly.

Although the sequence below is bailed out by a Williams corner triple (on a good pass from Tristan Thompson), it illustrates Milwaukee’s general strategy to stop DeMar:

With DeRozan suffocated, it depended on the rest of the Bulls to cook on offense. And the Bucks knew it was a worthwhile gamble. Zach plays clearly hurt, unable to properly penalize Milwaukee for straying occasionally. After a solid first contest and a terrific second performance, Nikola Vucevic seems to have faded into the effective, low-assertion jump shooter he had been for much of the 2021-22 regular season.

Thanks to the Bucks’ length, the Bulls struggled to get inside in the first half, exemplified by the lack of even a single foul fired. Then forced to shoot from beyond the arc, the Bulls converted just nine of their 36 three-point looks. Chicago only went 5 of 19 on their shorter/easier three-point turn attempts.

Overall, even without a very good wing defenseman in Khris Middleton for a few games, the Bucks have limited Chicago’s offense to an abysmal level:

It’s a shallow list

For the fourth game in a row, nearly every bench player for the Bulls was terrible. For my money (and others agree), there are only of them promising role players in Chicago beyond the team’s first four (five including Lonzo Ball).

Even when Alex Caruso isn’t brutalizing his body and keeping every Buck on the ground (he’s currently in concussion protocols and his status for Game 5 tomorrow is officially “questionable”), he can get an open shot at times, but barely enough to worry Milwaukee.

Outspoken shooter Coby White hasn’t been consistent enough in this series to earn the Bucks’ respect on defense. He had exactly one good game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the Game 1 loss to the Bulls. Beyond that contest, he’s averaging 4.3 points per night on 21% shooting (4 of 19 from the floor). But Billy Donovan doesn’t really have many options. Because White has a reputation for being a solid three-point shooter (during his three-year NBA career he made 36.5% of his 6.1 attempts per game), he ran a lot in this series as a release valve when the Dollars seal DeRozan. But when he doesn’t hit, it’s a disaster.

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Patrick Williams also had a terrible first half, but he converted two triples and two free throws in a 17-3 in the 3rd quarter. In the end, he had 20 points in the game overall (3 of 6 from three-point field), but he seemed much more comfortable looking to score with the game well out of control. than he did when things were really competitive.

Also in this 2nd half, Ayo Dosunmu took on the starting task (after Caruso’s injury) with his first decent night of the series. He helped galvanize the Bulls to start the 2nd half, and for the game scored a decently effective eight points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field (including 2-of-5 from deep).

Dosunmu also struggled to find a rhythm in the playoffs, scoreless in his first two games and then scoring just four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the Game 3 home blowout. 4 marked the first time in this series that he was awarded more minutes than Coby White on the bench.

Dosunmu is pretty raw, but the promise of a good 3-and-D player is there. Neither Paw nor Ayo have given Chicago much defensively this streak, but both have the size and strength to one day impact that end in a postseason fight. Williams’ abilities as a good one-on-one defender remain largely theoretical:

Ultimately, this streak shows that the Bulls’ role players either haven’t proven themselves like Dosunmu and Williams, or have already proven they don’t deserve to be in a playoff rotation. Coby, Derrick Jones Jr., Javonte Green and semi-annual exception signee Tristan Thompson haven’t shown enough in this series to suggest they’re worth keeping.

Grayson Allen outperformed Bulls All-Stars at UC

Simple and catchy: Grayson Allen had two better games, playing at home in Chicago, than DeMar DeRozan or Zach LaVine.

Allen was moved to the bench in favor of minimum-wage midseason addition Wesley Matthews earlier this year, and after an unproductive start (he scored a total of three points in the first two games of the series ), found major rhythm during the Bucks. decisive in the last two fights. Allen scored a total of 49 points on 18 of 44 shooting from the floor. He went 11 of 14 from deep. Part of that is a feature of Chicago sometimes leaving him open in defensive rotations to help Giannis on the inside, but you’d think by Game 4 they’d start to stay at home a bit more.

Already one of the least likable former Duke Blue Devils ever (a high bar to cross), Allen has now seemingly fully embraced his role as a hooker for Bulls fans, even encouraging his teammates to the boo every time he has the rock.

It has been the most emotionally disappointing aspect of a likely end to the 2021-22 season.



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