#3 – Chicago Bulls
It may have taken them two overtimes to do it, but the Chicago Bulls have taken a 3-0 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in their first-round series. And since no team in the history of NBA basketball has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit, it’s probably safe to say that the Bulls will be moving on to play the Cleveland Cavaliers (who are also up 3-0 in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics) in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
However, before that happens, Chicago has some things to clean up, as they showed in Game 3. In fact, before they wrap up their current series with Milwaukee, there are a lot of things that simply can’t happen in Game 4. Turnovers, for example, have been a problem for the Bulls in this series and they were once again in the first half of Game 3. They had four turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game, then started off the second quarter by turning the ball over four more times before they had scored five points. It was a problem, again, and a lot of it came because Derrick Rose was doing that thing where he jumps in the air and only then decides what he’s going to do with the ball. It was ugly at times, but obviously it got a whole lot better in the second half.
In truth, Rose actually went on to have one of his better halves in regard to decision making, which is a big reason why he finished the game with 34 points. Jimmy Butler also was huge, and Tony Snell stepped right into that Nikola Mirotic role, knocking down some big threes at the end of regulation and keeping Chicago’s offense cooking when it mattered most.
Rose continues to shine, and that means everything in the world for the Bulls. They just need to work on cleaning up those turnovers (they’re averaging almost 17 per game for the series), and Game 4 should ultimately be theirs.
#6 – Milwaukee Bucks
More than any other game this series, Game 3 was a learning experience for Milwaukee. Up 18 in the second quarter, they surrendered their lead and then found themselves having to claw their way back down 10 points in the game’s waning minutes. They were too young and too inexperienced to keep the heavyweight Bulls on the mat after a first-half knockout, but they also were too good defensively and lively on offense to lay down and die when the tide turned later on in the game.
Khris Middleton hit some huge shots, including one toward the end of regulation that, at the time, put them in the lead with only a few seconds left on the clock, and Giannis Antetokounmpo had a terrific first half that saw him attacking and shooting from all over the floor. The guy was thumping his chest and showing real confidence for the first time all series.
Inexperience did eventually catch up to these kids, though, as it has done all postseason. After a strong first overtime, the Bucks absolutely crumbled in the second one, turning over the ball on the first two possessions and then just getting stifled by a Bulls defense that ramped it up as the momentum tilted back in their favor.
Winning Game 4 would be a moral victory at this point, a symbolic step in the right direction for a team that, frankly, is good enough to take at least one game in this series. If they can play as good of defense as they did in the last game, where they pushed Chicago to the end of the shot clock myriad times and forced a ton of bad shots, they’ll stay in every game left in this series.
Clearly, though, the Bulls are on a different plane, and the Bucks just aren’t ready. We’ll have to wait and see if they’ve got a moral victory left in them.
Who Wins Game 4?
Let’s call this one a sweep. Milwaukee blew their best shot at a win in Game 3. They won’t likely see a better opportunity than that.
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