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Biggest swing factor that could win the Bulls a game
Will Gottlieb: Nikola Vucevic’s three-point shooting. The Bucks defense is built to give up threes above the break and he needs to capitalize.
Matt Peck: Patrick Williams, Ayo Dosunmu or Coby White hitting timely shots and making timely plays. If it’s a tight contest late in the fourth, you know DeMar is going to be swarmed. Can the Bulls beat the trap and will one of the young guys have the stones to hit a big shot?
Dave Watson: Three-point shooting. The Bulls have not been good at it but it’s the great equalizer. If White, Vucevic and Dosunmu can get going it will definitely help their chances.
Mark Karantzoulis: One of Alex Caruso or Williams need to give the Bulls a legitimate fourth scoring option. Caruso is still hurt and Williams is unproven. However, if one of these guys can exceed expectations — preferably Williams — it will go a long way in the Bulls recording an upset win.
Hottest take for the series
Will: Bulls take … Game 1! I’m not even sure I believe this, but the Bucks tanked to get this matchup, and I can see them coming out flat like they have already won. Basketball Karma is real! A big DeMar DeRozan game with 15 threes sprinkled in could do it. Unlikely, but hey, it’s called a hot take for a reason.
Matt: LaVine has been perfectly saving himself down the stretch with this bad knee and will have a lights-out series, reminding us all what All-Star Zach looks like. I’m not super confident in this, but … maybe?
Dave: Williams will average over 20 points and 6 rebounds.
Mark: I don’t usually do hot takes. I’m not sure if this one is spicy, though I assume it will annoy many. Bold prediction: Williams draws the initial matchup on Giannis Antetokounmpo, though head coach Billy Donovan pivots to Javonte Green by game three.
Over/under 1.5 40-point games from DeRozan
Will: Give me the over on 1.5 35-point games, but under 1.5 40-point games.
Matt: I’ll go under. I think he gets one 40 burger, but doing it twice in one series (especially if it’s a short series, against this Bucks defense) is damn hard to do.
Mark: In order to bet the over, the expectations is DeRozan scores 40-plus points on two (or more) occasions. Personally, I don’t see how this series makes it past five games, therefore the question is, will DeRozan score 40-points in 40 percent of games played versus the defending champions? When framed like that, I’m hitting the under.
Over/under 29.5 points for Zach in playoff debut (Jordan 23, Rose 36)
Will: Over. Bucks are ready to throw the kitchen sink at DeRozan and LaVine should have the easier opportunities playing off him.
Matt: If Zach having a big series is my hot take, I’ll roll with it here. Plus, shutting down DeMar being the Bucks’ primary objective could give Zach a window. Give me the over, and 10+ free throw attempts!
Mark: I want it to be true, but I’m hitting the under. In 20 games played post the All-Star break, LaVine topped 30 points in only 4 games. Given the opponent, his knee injury, and the stakes involved in a high leverage playoff game, I don’t think a 30-piece happens in game one.
Will: Going against my better judgement here and picking Bucks in five. If the Bulls have a chance, it’s Game 1 or Game 3 and I can see the stars aligning one time in the series.
Matt: I want nothing more than the Bulls to shock everyone and make this series a SERIES. I just don’t see it based on the way they’ve played for the final third of the season. The Bucks are better on both ends of the floor and have more room for error. Bucks in five.
Dave: Bucks in five
Mark: The Bulls are 0-for-4 against the Bucks this season. They’re not winning the series. Can they get it to five? Game 4 is scheduled to tip at 12pm next Sunday at the United Center. Seems like a perfect opportunity for the Bucks to take a game — and the Bulls — lightly, giving the home team its lone win of the series.