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The jig is up. The Bucks have solved the Bulls. Maybe it was a surprise it took this long.
The Bucks now lead the series 3-1 after a 119-95 win in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. They have exposed every weakness, every flaw, and every imperfection of this Bulls team and it has effectively ended their rival’s season.
I chalked a miserable Game 3 up to bad math, perhaps foolishly. The real story coming out of that game was the emotional collapse of the Bulls and a complete lack of effort.
The story of Game 4, meanwhile, is that the Bucks overmatch the Bulls in every way. Every deflating Grayson Allen three-pointer, every Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk, every Jrue Holiday fade away, makes it clear the Bulls aren’t equipped to compete with this Bucks team.
The Bucks have found success pressing up on the Bulls full court, delaying the initiation of their offense.
They’re preventing DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine from even touching the ball until 10 seconds on the shot clock and forcing them to drive through 10 Bucks arms and legs.
“They definitely pack the paint,” DeMar DeRozan said on Sunday. “Showing length. Trying to take a lot of my space away. They’re locked in defensively. All five guys. Whenever we do something, not just myself, Zach as well. Just trying to make it tough on us. Taking away our easy shots where we like to get to our spots. The length, you definitely see it there.”
If they do get into the lane, they’re running into multiple seven-footers who are disciplined enough to know they can deter, alter or send back shots without fouling.
“They’re crowding the paint,” Zach LaVine said. “Once I break that first line of defense, they’re sending guys into the lane and not letting me and DeMar beat them.”
No one on the Bulls can create any advantage against this Bucks defense. The way collapse the lane and get back out to shooters is impressive. The Bulls rely so heavily on clearing out those lanes to get to the basket and draw fouls. They can’t do that with no space on the floor.
“Trust the pass, try to get guys open and put them in rotations like what they were doing with us,” LaVine continued.
The Bucks have completely loaded up on DeRozan and LaVine, taking them entirely out of the offense and allowing the rest of the Bulls to turn down threes and dribble into harder shots.
“It’s not just on me trying to make a play,” DeRozan said. “We gotta be focused and locked in offensively on how we can take advantage of that. When they’re loading in on me, trying to get easier shots, easier layups on the secondary, back end of our offense.”
The biggest problem with this Bulls roster is lack of players who are reliable on both sides of the court. They have a bunch of ‘if they could shoot’ defenders who are passing up open threes and forcing the Bulls to create something out of nothing with four seconds on the shot clock.
The one area where the Bulls had an opportunity to hurt the Bucks is from above the break shooting pick-and-pop threes. Credit to the Bucks for adjusting well. They started sending weak side help at Nikola Vucevic to remove him as a scoring option and safety valve.
Vucevic shot 1-for-6 from deep in Game 4. The Bucks have eliminated every edge the Bulls had coming into this series.
It also goes without saying, but the Bulls don’t have a Giannis. The Bucks are beating the Bulls in the free throw, three-point and paint-scoring battle. The Bucks are out-rebounding and out-executing them on defense. There’s nothing else the Bulls can turn to at this point.
“We can’t show panic,” DeRozan said after the game.
They’re past the point of panic. If they want to keep playing, they can’t show defeat.
“You gotta play like it could be your last game because that’s the part that you’re at. That’s the mentality we’ve been trying to play with, but now that’s reality,” LaVine said. “If you lose any more you’re out. We’ve gotta go home. And I’m not particularly ready to go home, I hope everybody else isn’t.”
Please prove me wrong, Bulls.
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