Eastern Conference Playoffs Game #2: Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls

2015 NBA Playoffs
Eastern Conference – First Round

#6 Milwaukee Bucks at #3 Chicago Bulls
Bulls Lead Best of Seven Series 1-0
Game #2 United Center – Chicago, Illinois
Monday, April 20, 2015, 8:05 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Opening Line: Chicago -7 1/2
Current Line: Chicago -8
Opening Total: 187 1/2
Current Total: 186 1/2
Opening Money Line: Bulls -350 / Bucks +290
Current Money Line: Bulls -370 / Bucks +325

The Bulls look to take a 2-0 series lead against the Bucks Monday night in Chicago.
The Bulls look to take a 2-0 series lead against the Bucks Monday night in Chicago.

Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls had not played in a playoff game since 2012 when he tore his ACL in game one of the first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers until Saturday. The former league MVP has been plagued by injuries for the last 3 seasons, including missing 31 games this season with a torn meniscus. He made up for lost time as he led the Bulls to a 103-91 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in game one of the Eastern Conference first round series. Rose scored 23 points and added 7 assists in his playoff return. Since the injury Rose has been settling for a lot of threes, but in this game he was aggressive and took it to the rim on numerous occasions. The rather stoic  Rose even showed more emotion on the court than he normally does by waving his arms to fire up the crowd.

Jimmy Butler added 25 points and 6 assists for Chicago. Aaron Brooks added 13 points off the bench. Chicago won despite committing 19 turnovers, but the Bulls had 52 rebounds to 41 for the Bucks. Chicago shot 45.8% from the field and held Milwaukee to 39.3% shooting, including 4/16 from 3 point range.

Chicago led by 9 at halftime, but Milwaukee pulled to within 3 early in the third. Chicago then went on a 15-7 run and would never be threatened again as they took game one.

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Milwaukee, coached by Jason Kidd,  finished third in the Central Division with a 41-41 record and was nine games behind Chicago. Milwaukee is making their second playoff appearance in three seasons. The Bucks have not advanced past the first round since advancing to the Conference Finals in 2001. Milwaukee had the worst record in the league last season winning only 15 games. It is a testament to Kidd’s coaching ability that the Bucks were able to make the playoffs so soon. The Bucks are the youngest team by average age of the 16 playoff teams, and Kidd is a candidate for coach of the year. Milwaukee is 46-36-1 ATS and the total is 38-45 this season. Milwaukee was an 8 point underdog against Chicago in game #1 and the total was 186.

Chicago, coached by Tom Thibodeau, finished second in the Central Division 3 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. Chicago finished a game ahead of the Toronto Raptors for the #3 seed.  The Bulls played only 22 games all season with their opening night starting line-up intact.  Chicago made the playoffs for the 10th time in the last 11 season, but they have only advanced past the second round once in those appearances. The Bulls are 40-43 ATS and the total is 42-40-1 this season.

Milwaukee is outscoring teams 97.8-97.4 this season. The Bucks are #8 in points allowed and #22 in scoring. Milwaukee is shooting 45.9% from the field and 36.3% from 3 point range. The Bucks are #7 in both categories. Milwaukee makes 75.7% from the free throw line. Opponents are shooting 43.7% from the field and 33.2% from 3 point range. The Bucks are #8 or better in both categories. Milwaukee averages 42.1 rebounds per game and opponents average 42.9. The Bucks are #24 in rebounds allowed. Milwaukee averages 23.6 assists, 16 turnovers, 9.6 steals and 4.9 blocks per game.

After losing last year’s #2 pick Jabari Parker to a knee injury in December, Milwaukee making the playoffs  is even more remarkable. A mid-season trade with the Philadelphia 76ers to acquire Michael Carter-Williams turned the team around. Carter-Williams averages 14.1 points, 4 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2 steals per game. Khris Middleton averages 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Giannis Antetokounmpo, nicknamed the “Greek Freak” averages 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. Parker averaged 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Ersan Ilyasova averages 11.5 points, and 4.8 rebounds. O.J. Mayo averages 11.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Damien Inglis is out for the season with a broken foot.

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Chicago is outscoring teams 101-98. The Bulls are #9 in points allowed this season. Chicago is shooting 44.2% from the field and 35.3% from 3 point range. The Bulls are #3 in free throw shooting at 78.3% from the line. Opponents are shooting 43.5% from the field and 33.5% from 3 point range. The Bulls are #4 or better in both categories. Chicago averages 45.7 rebounds per game and opponents average 43.4 per game. The Bulls are #3 in rebounding. Chicago averages 21.7 assists, 13.2 turnovers, 6.3 steals and 5.8 blocks per game.

Jimmy Butler averages 20.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Pau Gasol averages 18.5 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.9 blocks per game. Derrick  Rose averages 18.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5 assists per game. He is probable with knee soreness. Aaron Brooks averages 11.6 points, 2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Taj Gibson averages 10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. He is probable with a shoulder injury.  Nikola Mirotic averages 10 points, 5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Joakim Noah averages 7.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. Mike Dunleavey, Tony Snell and Kirk Hinrich will also get minutes in the rotation. Hinrich is out with a knee injury.

Milwaukee is 6-2-1 ATS after failing to cover, 3-1-1 after a straight up loss by 10 points or more, 10-4-1 in Monday games, 2-5 against teams with winning records, 1-5 after allowing 100 points or more, and 1-6 in first round playoff games. The under is 4-1 ATS in this series recently.

Chicago is 4-1 ATS after a straight up win, overall, against Eastern Conference teams, and after scoring 100 points or more, 7-2 against teams with losing road records, 6-2 at home and on one day rest, and 8-17 after a cover. The home team has covered the last 4 games in this series. The Bulls are 6-1 ATS in the last 7 games against the Bucks including 4-0 in Chicago. The Bulls were favored in each of those contests.

Milwaukee hung around for a while in game #1, but Chicago simply has more experience and more talent. The Bulls should win game two by a similar margin. One interesting thing is neither team broke 100 points in the four regular season meetings between these two teams. I think game one being so high scoring was an anomaly and this should be a low scoring game.

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