IN THE CITY OF MILWAUKEE The Chicago Bulls are always at ease in the fourth quarter when they have the ball in DeMar DeRozan’s hands and a one-point disadvantage. During DeRozan’s first season in Chicago, that recipe has worked time and time again for him.
NBA playoffs opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, DeRozan couldn’t provide late-game magic. During the fourth quarter, he only made one field goal out of seven attempts, and he only attempted two free throws in the second half.
When DeRozan was absent, the Bucks won their game despite coming back to erase a 16-point halftime hole 93-86.
In a sloppy game of smothering basketball, no team scored more than 89 points. Both teams struggled from the field, with the Bulls shooting only 32.3 percent and the Bucks hitting 15 of 23 from the foul line.
The Bulls’ early minutes were bleak. A 9-0 run by Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first quarter sent the Bucks out to a 16-point lead. The Bulls were well aware that they couldn’t match the Bucks’ size straight up, but they also failed to take advantage of a crucial long-range edge.
A huge part of the Bucks’ defensive effort is devoted to guarding Antetokounmpo and Lopez, who dominate the paint and have a significant impact on the outcome of many layups and post-ups. The Bulls were 3 for 17 from 3-point range in the first half, including a 10-minute run when they didn’t make a shot from beyond the arc.
In the second quarter, the Bulls outscored the Bucks 22-17, resulting in a 51-43 halftime deficit. The Bucks’ dismal shooting performance in the second quarter and the first half bolstered them, as they shot 6 for 22 from the floor and 5 for 10 from the line.
To stay within striking distance of the Bucks, the Bulls were dependent on a strong performance from each of their three All-Stars. After aggressively backing down Lopez for a post-up bucket, Nikola Vuevi swished a tying 3-pointer on the following play to bring the game to a 2-2 tie. Coby White sank a three-pointer with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter to give the Bulls a 67-64 lead, their first of the night.
To halt the comeback, the Bucks simply brought back Antetokounmpo by swapping him in. A 10-2 run by the Bucks to conclude the third quarter saw them restore a three-point lead, with Antetokounmpo slamming down a bulldozer drive on DeRozan en route to a layup.