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As they say, the series doesn’t start until one of the teams loses a game at home. That’s exactly what happened last night, with the Bulls taking one from the Bucks as Fiserv Forum, 114-110.
In a game that turned into a must-win with the Bucks suffering injuries to Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis, the Bulls grabbed a critical victory before heading back home for Game 3.
DeMar DeRozan: A+.
DeRozan’s playoff career-high of 41 points reminded the NBA of the All-NBA caliber level he played at throughout the season. DeRozan masterfully operated out of the pick-and-roll, found the open man, and got to his spots (including taking the two-time Defensive Player of The Year to school). There’s such an ease to DeRozan’s moves; it’s as if he’s going through drills in front of a roaring 20,000+ crowd. In a critical game in the series, DeRozan scored 24 points in the second half.
Zach LaVine: B-.
LaVine had an uneven game. The two-time All-Star was inconsistent at the rim, committed four turnovers, but contributed 20 points. Jrue Holiday guarded LaVine for most of the game while DeRozan and Vucevic had huge offensive performances.
Nikola Vucevic: A.
Nikola Vucevic silenced his doubters with an emphatic 24-point, 13-rebound performance. Vucevic’s emphatic start forced Billy Donovan to switch two-time MVP Giannis Antetokunmpo on him. Defensively, Vucevic moved his feet and was active on that end of the court (he even drew a charge on Antetokounmpo). Vucevic was huge on the glass, tapping out the ball that turned into DeRozan’s game-sealing layup.
Patrick Williams: B.
What a performance by the 20-year-old out of Florida State playing in his 19th game of the season. Patrick Williams was active on the glass (nine rebounds) and aggressive offensively (six shot attempts). Williams attacked Brook Lopez off the dribble and finished with a left-handed scoop shot off the glass. Williams showed a belief in his mid-range game, stepping into pull-up jumpers and confidently knocking them down. Despite a well-timed weak-side block, Williams did seem timid at times when defending Antetokounmpo charging at the rim.
Alex Caruso: A.
Frankly, the Bulls don’t win this game without Alex Caruso. The former Texas A&M Aggie provided a little bit of everything for the Bulls. Whether it was forcing turnovers, hitting two 3-pointers, or throwing a Lonzo Ball-esque transition pass: Caruso provided it. The fifth-year guard whipped passes around the court, recording a playoff career-high 10 assists. Caruso brings a tenacity and toughness that is amplified in the playoffs. Caruso was a team-high +17 in his 38 minutes of action.
The bench provided minor contributions in Game 2. The bench collective combined to score 10 points, 12 rebounds, and three assists. Billy Donovan had a quick hook today for any bench player, and for good reason. Whenever the bench checked in, the Bucks went on a run. It was an overall uninspiring performance from the group.
The Bulls accomplished the goal of taking one of the road games. Now it’s on them to defend what should be a raucous crowd at the United Center on Friday night.
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