After coming so close to a four-game sweep, the Chicago Bulls get their second chance to eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of their seven-game first round series Monday night at the United Center.
Milwaukee guard Jerryd Bayless kept the series alive with his buzzer-beating layup in Game 4’s 92-90 victory, the first for the Bucks since 2010, but Milwaukee still faces a 3-1 series hole and returns to a Chicago home court where they dropped Games 1 and 2 by an average of 10.5 points.
The Bucks also face a Bulls squad determined to make up for its sloppy ball control and 28 total turnovers resulting in 39 Milwaukee points in Game 4.
Turnovers have been a major problem for the Bulls throughout the series, committing 19.5 per game, with returning point guard Derrick Rose the biggest culprit with eight in Game 4.
But Rose and All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler have still managed to light up the much younger Bucks on the offensive end. Rose is averaging 21.5 points with 7.5 assists during the series, and Butler’s the fourth leading scorer in the postseason with 28.3 points per contest, upped significantly with Game 4’s 33 points on 5-for-7 shooting from three-point range.
And yet while the Bulls have welcomed Rose’s offensive output, and he’s largely re-acclimated in his third comeback from injury, its slightly been to the detriment of power forward Pau Gasol’s production. The former Lakers big man is shooting less than 41 percent from the field, down from 45 percent during the regular season, and averaging 13.5 points a game, also down from 18.5. However, with 13.3 rebounds per game, Gasol is cleaning up the glass very well with center Joakim Noah.
Noah’s swiping 11.8 rebounds per contest and Chicago’s outrebounded Milwaukee in three of the four contests, but the Bulls are giving Milwaukee extra opportunities to score. The Bucks have owned the offensive glass 51-41.
Loaded with veteran talent, the Bulls were expected to complete a sweep of the much younger Bucks, who ranked as the second-youngest team in the league with an average age of 23.7. But Milwaukee’s squad has responded to the challenge in each game, despite most players making their postseason debuts.
Guard Khris Middleton has put 17 points per game and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has contributed 13.3 points and 9.0 rebounds, with lithe third-year center John Henson leading the bench with 10.3 points and 8.0 rebounds.
Still, Milwaukee’s specifically struggled from the field throughout the series. As a team the Bucks are shooting 39.1 percent, with only Henson and veteran small forward Jared Dudley shooting over 40 percent.
The Bucks especially need to rediscover their stroke from beyond the arc. Milwaukee ranked seventh in the league with a 36.3 percent rate from three, but that’s plummeted to 31.1 in the postseason.
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Live Online: A live stream is available at TNT Overtime here
Betting Odds: Bulls -8.5
Over/Under: 188 points
Prediction: Chicago over Milwaukee, 100-87