The Bulls have made the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Despite having to play the defending champs right out of the gate, it is a time for joy. This series will be no easy task, especially for a Bulls team without much playoff experience. So what does the Bulls playoff preview look like and what are the points of emphasis heading into this series? 

How to Defend Giannis

Milwaukee vs. Chicago: Bucks Survive Bulls, 94-90 - Brew Hoop

The Bulls have had their struggles with the two-time MVP. Antetokounmpo has been averaging 26.8 PPG,  13.5 RPG, and 5.0 APG, on 64.3 FG% in 32.5 MPG against the Bulls. He also has a box +/- of +56 through the four matchups this season. These numbers are typical for Giannis and he will be the first concern for Chicago. Expect the Bulls to view this as an opportunity to give Patrick Williams a chance to grow and learn as he will draw the assignment. The second-year pro has had his season derailed by injury, but the Bulls have high hopes for the former fourth-pick still and this is one of the reasons he was brought here. Williams is 6’7” with broad shoulders. He has the ideal size to take on Giannis and while he will have his struggles, it will be a great learning experience. The other thing to consider is, are the Bulls going to force someone other than Giannis to beat them? Or will the Bulls want to limit everyone else? I expect them to take away Giannis first and try to make the supporting cast beat them from the perimeter. That starts with transition defense and building a wall in front of Giannis to force the kick out.

Punish the Drop Coverage 

Bulls-Bucks, Clippers-Nuggets spread, over/under and prop bets - Sports  Illustrated

With Brook Lopez back in the lineup, the Bucks do a great job of protecting paint between the length of Lopez and Giannis. As they are strong on the interior though, this will open up opportunities on the perimeter for the Bulls to take more threes. Lopez in particular is going to sit back and protect the drive, which will give the Bulls options for their shooters. Expect LaVine to be aggressive with his shot out of the pick and roll. Also, expect Billy Donovan to give Coby White some action on flair screens. Those are the Bulls’ two best shooters but expect everyone to be shot-ready as the Bucks do their best to force their opponent to settle with three-pointers. 

How to Get DeMar Going

Bucks keep DeMar DeRozan in check and out of rhythm in win over Bulls – The  Athletic

DeMar has been the MVP of the Bulls this year, but this is a tough matchup. No matter who he draws one on one, the Bucks will send bodies and force someone else to beat them. That is where he will need to make the right play and hopefully, the Bulls will be able to knock down those open jumpers because they will be there. Another way DeMar should get going is out of the pick and roll. He can dominate in the pick and roll as long as they are not trapping it. If it’s a soft hedge/drop coverage, he will get to his spot and rise up. DeRozan will also be able to hurt them in secondary transition. When DeMar is taking the ball up, he does a good job of getting to the block immediately. That will automatically put the defense in an uncomfortable position as they will try their best to keep him off of his spots. He is still the Bulls’ best player and to even make this series interesting, will need him playing at a high level.

Do the Dirty Work

Nikola Vucevic NBA Player Prop Preview | Bulls vs. Bucks | March 4 - Fubo  News

Chicago has had trouble rebounding all year, but the Bulls will not survive a game if they allow the ginormous Bucks to punish them on the glass. They need gang rebounding, to ensure it is a one-and-done possession. Defensively, the Bulls need to buy in. They need to take it personally. Players like Zach LaVine, Coby White, and Ayo Dosunmu need to have some pride on the perimeter. Then players like DeMar and Williams need to make sure they are on top of their rotations. Last but not least, you need good Vučević. Consistency has been an issue all season. Typically his defense is better when he’s playing well offensively. That can’t always be the case as the Bucks are great at defending the paint and it won’t be easy to get established, but he can’t be a liability on the defensive end regardless of what he’s doing offensively. 

Experience/Mental Toughness

Interview: Alex Caruso discusses leaving Lakers, joining Bulls, more

My biggest issue with the Bulls is that they are not mentally tough. When calls aren’t going their way, it affects their play. You start seeing players take things personally to a fault, trying to isolate their man one on one and forget what basketball is. It’s a team game, and the Bulls are at their best when the ball is moving. Mental toughness is also something that can be learned through experience. Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu are two of the only players that have consistently displayed that. AC has won a championship and played with LeBron. He knows what it takes. Then yes, the rookie is also mentioned. Ayo Dosunmu has rarely been phased by a call. I can count on my hand the number of times he reacted in any way to a call all year. He was a clutch player in college and you can tell that he has a poise to him where he will always play his game. Generally speaking, the experience will be great. No one needs to explain how playoff basketball is different. For the future of the Bulls franchise that includes Patrick Williams, Zach LaVine, and possibly Coby White, the experience can only help. 

Bulls vs Bucks Outlook

Sadly for Bulls fans, expectations should be low. If the Bulls can take them to six games, that would be a win. As depressing as that may sound, this year is about gaining that experience, evaluating what we have, and seeing where we need to improve this offseason because the Bucks will do their best to exploit our faults. They are a championship-caliber team. There will be no shame in losing to them, it just depends on how.

Thank You for Reading

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About Author

Bradley Patten

I played basketball growing up, and always prided myself on being a student of the game. In highschool, I got a concussion that ended my career. Little did I know that it would change my life forever. During this time, I found a new passion related to basketball. I started scouting incoming prospects and fell in love with it. I also love coaching as I am a basketball coach at a local highschool. Belly Up Sports is a way for me to share my love for the game with others and get my opinions out there. My overall goal is to work in the basketball industry as a coach or scout. “To be successful, you must be willing to do the things today others won’t do in order to have the things tomorrow other’s won’t have” (Les Brown). I am well aware this is a competitive field, but I have all the determination to be one of the ones fortunate enough to make it.

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