Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago
Bulls lead 2-0
This was the perfect wake up game for the Bulls. Not that they took the Bucks lightly because, well, Thibs. Thibs wouldn’t take a high school team lightly, let alone the second best defense in the league. In all honesty though, the Bulls had to grind out this win, and in doing so (at the risk of sounding philosophical) found themselves. They don’t have the prettiest offense in the league, Gasol and Butler being their only legitimate threats on that end. What they do have is elite level defense, a defense that met is match in this series. The Mirotic injury becomes a concern if he misses a game in the series, especially since he brings that inside-out offense and the ability to draw fouls and get to the line that will be key to breaking a scoring drought that the Bucks can impose. Two things stand out from this game, one, the Bulls cannot take these “kids” lightly and two, the Bulls could not have asked for a better match up to “find themselves”.
This game should have gone the Bucks way. I blame Sam Hinkie and bloody 76ers for this loss. With Rose clearly struggling, this was MCW’s game and match up to win. Only he just cannot elevate his game because at his core he still carries around the complacency that comes with playing for a terrible team that seeks to lose games. I cringed every time he posted up Rose, because a.) he could not make anything happen from there, and b.) the Bucks were perfectly fine moving the ball around the perimeter and getting those open looks. MCW isn’t the only one to blame. But as the point guard and commander of this team, he has to shoulder the most responsibility. Now much of this has to do with inexperience. The last thing you want to do, when a playoff veteran team like the Bulls is making a comeback, is change your offense. The Bucks did everything right on the defensive end for the full game and they could not have played the Bulls any better. Offensively though, they were punching above their weight in the 1st half moving the ball around and getting open like they were the veterans in the matchup. Sadly, on the 2nd half, they lost focus and played reactive basketball as soon as the Bulls made a run, when all they should have done is stuck to the same script and eventually the shots would have fallen. They always fall. Always. All I’m gonna say is this, if the Bucks play the next 14 of 16 quarters the way they played the first half today, expect an upset.
Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State
Warriors lead 2-0
Both games today were similar in that the favorites (teams) got pushed to the edge. Facing a Pelicans team that brought the fight to them today, the Warriors had to play with their backs against the wall some time in this game. The difference though, between the Warriors and any other team in a similar situation, is that they know who they are, and simply carry on with the script. It is both scary and fascinating to watch this team come out of time outs (taken when they are down) and right every wrong that got them in the hole in the first place. They are a supremely confident team because they put their trust in a system that has worked for them all season, and they know will work for them in their pursuit of the Championship.
That they played 44 minutes to the absolute best of their ability is commendable for a team that is a rookie to the NBA Playoffs. However, it is precisely because they are rookies they lost hold of the game in the last four minutes. I’m sure that the Pelicans did to wish for it to end this way, and fully intended to play till the whistle. But not giving a 100% even on a single possession against a historically great team is suicidal. This is as good as the Pelicans can get, both defensively and offensively. With the exception of Tyreke playing hero when has on his team a certain Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon (who was blazing hot for the field, no less), the Pelicans hardly had any flaws this game. They closed out well on the three point shot, rebounded exceptionally well and stayed the course at every Warriors comeback run, except for well, the last one. Davis did look tired in that crucial period, but I’m against the call for having him rested more earlier. These are the playoffs, and if you want to be counted among the greats then this is where you lay it out. The Pelicans did miss Jrue Holiday, especially as the leader of that second unit and will look for him to return when they play at home. Look for Monty Williams (who is also punching way above his weight here) to deploy the small ball line up with Cunningham at four and Davis at five, for more minutes in Game 3. I sincerely feel the momentum in the favor of the Pelicans, and they can make a series of it if they take care of business at home