Eastern Conference Playoffs Game #6: Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks

2015 NBA Playoffs
Eastern Conference – First Round
#3 Chicago Bulls at #6 Milwaukee Bucks
Bulls Lead Best of Seven Series 3-2
Game #6 BMO Bradley Center – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Thursday, April 30, 2015, 7:05 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Opening Line: Chicago -3
Current Line: Chicago -3 1/2
Opening Total: 188
Current Total: 187 1/2
Opening Money Line: Bulls -165 / Bucks +140
Current Money Line: Bulls -170 / Bucks +150

The Bulls look to close out the Bucks in game six of the conference quarterfinals.
The Bulls look to close out the Bucks in game six of the conference quarterfinals.

The Chicago Bulls won the first three games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Milwaukee Bucks and looked like they were well on their way to setting up a much anticipated conference semifinal match-up against the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, Chicago has lost the last two games against the Bucks and has to play game six Thursday in Milwaukee. Chicago looks to close out the series, but Milwaukee can become only the fourth team to force a game seven after being down 3-0. It hasn’t happened since the Portland Trail Blazers accomplished the feat in 2003 against the Dallas Mavericks.

Chicago won the first two games at home 103-91 in game one and 91-82 in game two. The series shifted to Milwaukee for games three and four. The Bulls won game three 113-106 in double overtime. Milwaukee staved off elimination with a 92-90 win in game four. The Bucks forced game six with a 94-88 win Monday in Chicago.

Milwaukee opened game five on a 9-0 run, but Chicago then went on a 21-4 run. Milwaukee would take a one point lead at the end of the first and led by 3 at halftime. The Bucks would expand the lead to six by the end of the third quarter. Milwaukee took a 9 point lead early in the fourth, but Chicago trimmed it to three. The Bucks led by four with just over a minute to go, but Milwaukee would hold on for the six point win. Chicago shot only 34% from the field and made only 4/22 from 3 point range.

Milwaukee guard Michael Carter-Williams had 22 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. He turned his ankle early in the third but would return later in the quarter. He is listed as probable Thursday. Khris Middleton had 21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 blocks. O.J. Mayo scored 10 points off the bench with 4 assists and 2 rebounds. Zaza Pachulia had 9 points, and 10 rebounds. John Henson had 14 rebounds.

Pau Gasol had 25 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler had 20 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. Derrick Rose had 13 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Taj Gibson added 12 points off the bench. Joakim Noah had 10 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks.

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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. Milwaukee is 48-38-1 ATS and the total is 39-48 this season. Milwaukee was a 8 point underdog against Chicago in game #5 and the total was 189.5.

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 42-45 ATS and the total is 43-43-1 this season.

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. 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.  Nikola Mirotic averages 10 points, 5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. He is probable with a strained quad. 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 probable with a knee injury after missing the first two games of the series.

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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.

Chicago is 4-0 ATS in Thursday games, 7-1 on two days rest, 5-2 after failing to cover, overall and against Eastern Conference teams.The Bulls are 8-3 ATS in this series recently and were favored in each of those contests. Chicago is 11-4 ATS in their last 15 trips to Milwaukee.

Milwaukee is 9-2 ATS in Thursday games and 3-8 in first round playoff games. The under is 7-2 in this series recently including 4-1 in Milwaukee. The home team is 6-2 ATS in this series recently.

Chicago hasn’t looked sharp in the last two games. They had 28 turnovers in game four and shot under 35% in game five. Milwaukee is playing a smaller line-up that has bothered Chicago on both sides of the court. Still I think the Bulls stop toying with team and finally put them away.

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