NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: #3 Chicago Bulls vs #6 Milwaukee Bucks

2015 NBA Playoffs
Eastern Conference – First Round

#3 Chicago Bulls vs #6 Milwaukee Bucks
Best of Seven Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1
Series Price: Chicago -1050 / Milwaukee +675
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbooks

Game #1 United Center – Chicago, Illinois
Saturday, April 18, 2015, 7:05 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN

Opening Line: Chicago -8 1/2
Current Line: Chicago -8
Opening Total: 193 1/2
Current Total: 186
Opening Money Line: Bulls -302 / Bucks +263
Current Money Line: Bulls -400 / Bucks +330

Derrick Rose is playing in his first playoff game since 2012 as Chicago takes on Milwaukee in the first round Saturday.
Derrick Rose is playing in his first playoff game since 2012 as Chicago takes on Milwaukee in the first round Saturday.

The 50-32 Chicago Bulls and 41-41 Milwaukee Bucks meet in the playoffs for the first time since 1990. The two cities roughly 90 miles apart. The winner between the  Bucks and Bulls will face either the #2 Cleveland Cavaliers or #7 Boston Celtics in the Eastern conference semifinals.

Chicago, coached by Tom Thibodeau, finished second in the Central Division 3 games behind the 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 is making the playoffs for the 10th time in the last 11 season, but they have only advanced past the second round once in those appearances.

Milwaukee, coached by Jason Kidd,  finished third in the Central Division 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 young Bucks were able to make the playoffs so soon.

Chicago won 3 of the 4 games against Milwaukee this season. The Bulls won on the road 95-86 November 5. Chicago won both meetings at the United Center 95-87 January 10 and 87-71 February 23. Milwaukee won at home 95-91 April 1.

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The Bucks lost Wednesday night at home to the Celtics 105-100 Wednesday night The loss snapped a 3 game winning streak for Milwaukee. Milwaukee is 46-35-1 ATS and the total is 37-45 this season. The Bucks were 6 point favorites against the Celtics and the total was 198.

The Bulls won 4 straight games to close out the regular season, including 91-85 at home over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night. Chicago is 39-43 ATS and the total is 41-40-1 this season. The Bulls were 5.5 point favorites against Atlanta and the total was 198.

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. Jerryd Bayless (neck) and Jared Dudley (back) are both probable.

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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. He missed 31 games in the regular season after tearing the meniscus in his right knee. It is worth noting Rose is playing in his first playoff game since the 2012 opening game when he infamously tore his ACL.  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. He is probable with a knee injury. Mike Dunleavey, Tony Snell and Kirk Hinrich will also get minutes in the rotation. Hinrich is out with a knee injury.

Milwaukee is 6-1-1 ATS after failing to cover, 4-1 against Central teams, 12-5 on two days rest, 1-4 after allowing 100 points or more, 1-5 in Saturday games, and in first round playoff games, and 0-11-1 after scoring 100 points or more. The last 4 games in this series have gone under the total.

Chicago is 5-1 ATS on two days rest, 6-2 against teams with losing road records, 5-2 at home and after a straight up win, 7-17 after a cover, 3-10 in Saturday games, and 1-4 in first round playoff games. The Bulls are 5-1 ATS in the last six games against the Bucks and Chicago was favored in each of those contests. The Home team is 4-1 ATS in this series recently.

Milwaukee making the playoffs is a great story but I don’t see them making this a series. The might win one game at home, but Chicago wins the series, starting with a game #1 victory at home in what should be a low scoring game as the other four meetings this season have been.

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